Fighting Truth Decay: How to navigate health in a post-truth world

Co-presented with the Charles Perkins Centre

On the eve of World Obesity Day, join us to unravel the role of corporate interests in influencing public perception of science, particularly health research.

Science, including health research, has been particularly susceptible to “Truth Decay” –  the increasing reliance on opinion over fact.  How have we reached a point where the public does not know what to believe about immunisation, dietary recommendations, the effectiveness of drugs, or the harms of chemicals? Conflicts of interest and bias are two key drivers of Truth Decay related to health. Corporate interests have a long, long history of influencing how people understand science – particularly science as it relates to their products or profits.

This event will explore the role of corporate interests in influencing the production, dissemination and use of health evidence and describe systemic changes that are needed to fight Truth Decay in order to address large scale and complex problems. Delivered on the eve of World Obesity Day, this event will consider the impact of Truth Decay on the obesity epidemic, the role of media in an environment that promotes obesity, and what’s needed to tackle this challenging problem.

This event was held at the University of Sydney on Wednesday 10 October 2018.


  • Professor Lisa Bero is an expert in examining how science can be influenced and translated into clinical practice and health policy.  She directs the Evidence, Policy and Influence Collaborative Research Program at the Charles Perkins Centre, with research nodes in bias, evidence synthesis and pharmaceutical policy. Professor Bero is Chair of Medicines Use and Health Outcomes in the University of Sydney's Faculty of Medicine and Health. She has developed and validated methods for assessing bias in the design, conduct and dissemination of research on pharmaceuticals, tobacco, chemicals, and complex public health interventions. Her international activities include member and chair of the World Health Organization (WHO) Essential Medicines Committee and Cochrane Collaboration liaison to WHO. 
  • Catriona Bonfiglioli is a journalism studies academic at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and has a special interest in the role of media in health. She is the designer of Communicating Health and Science 54090, an innovative communication unit within the UTS Bachelor of Communication. Catriona is lead chief investigator of ARC Discovery Project 1096251:  ‘Changing the media diet – Investigating the power of the news media to prevent obesity’. Her research has been presented in international journals, book chapters and at international conferences. Catriona wrote Australia's first resource for health journalists on obesity news: Reporting Obesity: A Resource for Journalists, and is an award-winning journalist with 15 years' experience as a reporter, sub-editor and specialist medical journalist. 
  • Professor Stephen Simpson is Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre, foundation member of The Obesity Collective and Chair of its Curators group, and Professor in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney. After graduating as a biologist from the University of Queensland, Stephen undertook his PhD at the University of London, then spent 22 years at Oxford before returning to Australia in 2005 as an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow, then ARC Laureate Fellow. In 2007 Stephen was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, in 2008 he won the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research, in 2009 he was NSW Scientist of the Year, in 2013 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and in 2015 was made a Companion of the Order of Australia. Stephen has also been prominent in the media, including presenting a four-part documentary series for ABC TV, Great Southern Land.

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