Science Journalism Lecture: Numbers don’t lie?

Event with Ionica Smeets, Nature Marsilius Visiting Professor for Scientific Communication at Heidelberg University

What does it mean if other Germans earn more money, on average, than you? Does eating ice cream before going swimming really cause more drowning accidents? The importance of numbers and statistics in reporting is the subject of an upcoming lecture by the well-known Dutch science journalist Ionica Smeets at Heidelberg University. The scientist, who has a doctorate in mathematics, is Nature Marsilius Visiting Professor for Scientific Communication in the current summer semester; at Leiden University she holds a professorship in this field. The lecture, entitled "Lying with Numbers", will be in English and take place on Tuesday 12 July 2022, in Marsilius Kolleg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 130.1. Starting time is 7.30 p.m

"Numbers don’t lie but they can give a distorted picture of the truth," underlines Prof. Smeets. The Nature Marsilius Visiting Professor will take us into a world full of "surprising paradoxes, misleading graphs and cheerful logic". In so doing, says the journalist and professor for science communication, she hopes that her listeners will no longer be so easily deceived by supposedly clear figures and statistics.

The Nature Marsilius Visiting Professorship is a joint initiative of Holtzbrinck Berlin, the Klaus Tschira Foundation and Heidelberg University. It involves inviting reputable experts to the university to hold their own courses on what makes for high quality reporting about scholarly research and scientific findings. At the same time, the visiting professors are expected to spark a broad-based discussion about new forms of exchange between academia and the public. While at Heidelberg University, Prof. Smeets will hold various workshops, for instance on what constitutes a good popular scientific talk, to train young researchers, in particular, in communicating their research to a wider public and contributing to social dialogue.

Ionica Smeets studied Applied Mathematics and Computer Science at the Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), obtaining her doctorate from Leiden University in 2010 with a thesis entitled "On continued fraction algorithms". Appointed as professor there in 2015, she heads the Science Communication and Society research group in Leiden. She has worked as a freelance journalist since 2004, e.g. for the newspaper "de Volkskrant", in which she also writes a weekly column. At the same time, she introduces scientific topics in many different TV formats. Ionica Smeets has, moreover, published several books, most recently a children’s book about mathematics, which was awarded the Dutch literary prize "Zilveren Griffel", among others.

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