“Nanobubbles”: how, when and why does science fail to correct itself? (ERC Synergy)

Repulsive yeast bubbles
Source: image uploaded by Ntpnanotechprojects to Wikimedia under CC4.0 license

‘Nanobubbles’ looks at the field of nanobiology to explore how erroneous claims can be removed from the scientific record.

Scientific research is based on the idea that any errors made must constantly be corrected. But in practice, it can be difficult to undo mistakes or exaggerated claims made in the past. This can lead to an erosion of trust in science. In the NanoBubbles project, data scientists, nano scientists and science researchers will investigate how erroneous claims in nanobiology can be rectified.

The project examines three ‘bubbles’ in specific: the claim that nanoparticles can cross the blood-brain barrier, the promotion of the “protein corona” concept to describe ordinary absorption of proteins on nanoparticles, and a third claim that nanoparticles can penetrate the cell membrane.

The project involves four Principal Investigators: Raphaël Lévy (University of Sorbonne Paris Nord), Cyril Labbé (University of Grenoble Alpes), Willem Halffman (Radboud Univeristy) and Cyrus Mody (Maastricht University).

The project aims to facilitate a healthy discussion within the scientific field and provide room for evidence for and against claims to be debated. The researchers also aim to pinpoint where and how erroneous claims and corrections to these claims circulate, such as through conferences, mainstream media, journals and social media.

During the project, Raphaël Lévy, a nanoscientist, will focus on identifying evidence for and against the claims underlying the three ‘bubbles’. Cyrus Mody, a historian, will trace the historical path of error (corrections) at conferences. Willem Halffman, a sociologist, will delve into the systemic pressures that encourage people to ignore criticism. Cyril Labbé, a computer scientist, will uncover where errors enter into the scientific record.