TED Science Standards

TED offers scientists and other experts a platform to provide scientific information directly to millions of people around the world. It’s a responsibility we take seriously. First and foremost, that information has to be scientifically credible.

The scientific method

Science isn’t a set of truths written in stone. It’s an approach to discovering truths about the world.

Explanatory theories are tested against observational evidence. If the evidence offers support for a theory, it may become accepted as part of current scientific consensus.

New hypotheses, new forms of experiments, new tools, and new ways of gathering data are constantly adding to what scientists can discover. Which means that scientific ideas are always subject to change.

Accuracy and transparency

At TED, we strive to present science in a way that is both compelling and 100% credible. Scientific claims by our speakers should be based on data that has survived scrutiny by experts in the field. Speakers should be transparent about the basis for any factual claims, and the scientific evidence for them.

Usually, such ideas first find expression via publication in a peer-reviewed journal and come from individuals and teams with the qualifications to generate and assess such ideas. If a claim is based on unpublished work, that fact must be made clear in the talk.

We do not support:

  • Ideas that are based on experiments that cannot be replicated or contain experimental flaws
  • Claims that are too sweeping
  • Ideas that fly in the face of scientific principles

TED employs a science curator as well as fact-checkers and topic-specific advisors. Before a speaker is invited to the TED stage, we strive to ensure that their work has been peer-reviewed, and that they are well regarded by other scientists. And we rely on you, TED’s audience, to alert us to questions or concerns, whether about a TEDx talk, a post on ideas.ted.com, or an outdated talk from the mainstage.

Is it OK to simplify?

In a short talk, it’s impossible to include all the nuance of scientific research. TED’s goal is to make science accessible to a wide audience. This inevitably means that some scientific concepts have to be simplified. But it’s important that they not be simplified to the point of becoming misleading. We encourage speakers to add footnotes to their talks if need be.

The role of speculation

Scientific journals and some scientific conferences discourage scientists from saying anything other than the direct findings of their work. At TED, we’re interested in understanding the potential implications of new scientific findings. This is essential in motivating further exploration and discovery.

So we are comfortable inviting scientists to speculate on the potential implications and applications of their work. But it’s also important that they distinguish clearly between what has already been achieved and what might be to come.

Yes, sometimes we make mistakes ...

We strive to admit when we make a mistake and make every effort to correct it, up to and including removing content.

… But science is constantly evolving, and so will our standards

Much like science, TED attempts to advance ideas worth spreading via dialogue and debate, new data and new hypotheses. And much like science, TED’s science content and these standards will be constantly up for review and revision. In the meantime, we will continue to strive to bring you ideas that explore the wonder, ingenuity, passion, skepticism, and facts of science.