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Communications of the ACM

The profession of IT

Science Is Not Another Opinion

clean face and bearded face on front and back of a bust

Credit: Svetlana Pasechnaya

Is science just another opinion? As the weeks unfold into months in the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have struggled to understand the disease, how best to treat it, and how to find a vaccine. The frustration over new outbreaks and the difficulties of containing the disease have embroiled mainstream politics. Some politicians, claiming their policies are science-based, handpick scientists whose expert opinions align with their political views. Scientists appear on talk-show panels where their expert opinions are treated like the political opinions—with admiration if they agree with yours, disdain if they do not.

Treating science as if it is just another opinion is a disservice to science and to humanity. As computing professionals, we rely on science to support our work and give confidence that our systems can be trusted. What makes science different from political, journalistic, barroom, or dinner-table opinions?


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