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Scientists and journalists team up to tackle disinformation in science

Written by Vitalba Crivello,

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In the era of fake news, how can we fight disinformation in science effectively? How can scientists and journalists join forces and work together in order to ensure better circulation of sound scientific information? The European Science-Media Hub (ESMH) is organising a workshop, on Wednesday, 6 February 2019, to take a closer look at some initiatives aimed at tackling misinformation and disinformation in science.

According to the Oxford dictionary, misinformation is ‘false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive’, while disinformation is ‘false information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organisation to a rival power or the media’.

The ESMH workshop will bring together journalists and scientists from several EU countries and will take place in the wider context of the ‘Science Week at the EP’ (5-7 February 2019). Selected experts will be talking to the audience about good practices in sharing quality information, via the presentation of case studies touching upon science disciplines and including some useful tools against disinformation.

Following a welcome address and opening by Eva Kaili, (S&D, Greece and STOA Chair), Scott Brennen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and the Oxford Internet Institute), will open the workshop by giving an overview of the Oxford Martin Programme on Misinformation, Science and Media, from its purpose to the main results obtained so far. The programme examines the impact of the interplay between scientific misinformation, news coverage, and social media platforms on public understanding of science and technological innovation. Since misinformation about basic issues in science and technology often abounds, the programme focuses on better understanding and ways to improve public discussions of science and technology.

Following Brennen’s intervention, it will be Guido Romeo’s turn to take the floor.This data and business journalist will talk about his brand new and ambitious project – Factful – and its focus on employing scientific methods in reporting, integrating data analysis and field work. Through open source intelligence, Factful not only promises to make science accessible to citizens and organisations to counter misinformation, but also to investigate into the working mechanisms of scientific institutions.

The workshop will then move to more concrete examples of initiatives tackling misinformation and disinformation in science.The President of the Science Feedback association Emmanuel Vincent will showcase the ClimateFeedback.org project, an international network of scientists who review influential climate change media coverage and provide feedback to readers, journalists and editors about its scientific credibility. Science Feedback is broadening this approach to other scientific fields prone to misunderstandings or organised campaigns of disinformation (e.g. health, see HealthFeedback.org). One of the primary goals is to help platforms like Facebook, Google and YouTube, which act as gatekeepers of online information, to promote credible sources of information.

Mike Hamilton will then discuss the ‘Factmata approach’ to artificial intelligence (AI), communities and expert knowledge, in identifying and classifying problematic content. Factmata evaluates content quality in a critical way, by using AI-based tools and relying on the knowledge of experts to spot factually incorrect content online.

The workshop will be moderated by a journalist, Tania Rabesandratana, with a participatory format, as the audience will play an active role by taking part into the debate throughout the workshop, via several Q&A sessions and regular opportunities to intervene.

Interested? Register for the workshop and join the debate. To keep up to date with ESMH activities, follow our website, and the EPRS blog, Twitter and Think Tank pages.

About Scientific Foresight (STOA)

The Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) carries out interdisciplinary research and provides strategic advice in the field of science and technology options assessment and scientific foresight. It undertakes in-depth studies and organises workshops on developments in these fields, and it hosts the European Science-Media Hub (ESMH), a platform to promote networking, training and knowledge sharing between the EP, the scientific community and the media. All this work is carried out under the guidance of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), composed of 25 MEPs nominated by nine EP Committees. The STOA Panel forms an integral part of the structure of the EP.

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