Silly PR: Communications expert explains how science should respond to fake news

From the UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON and the “fake news is news we don’t like” department comes this press release that made me laugh. While there’s always been tabloids that make up “alien abductions”, Bigfoot, HAARP, and the like – science has never had a need to bother responding to it. The one exception I know of is this study definitively showing the chemtrails nonsense to be just that.

But the laughable thing is that this PR is little more than a notice of “I met with AP’s science write Seth Borenstein and we talked about it“. That’s not a science response to the issue, and to say it is, is just as much “fake news” and the press pablum they talk about. – Anthony


Communications expert explains how science should respond to fake news

BOSTON — The rise of fake news has dominated the world of politics since the last U.S. election cycle. But fake news is not at all new in the world of science, notes University of Wisconsin-Madison Life Sciences Communication Professor Dominique Brossard.

“Fake news about science has always existed,” she says. “What has changed now is social media and the potential to disseminate this kind of news much faster among social networks.”

Addressing scientists today (Feb. 18, 2017) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Brossard discussed the fake news phenomenon in the context of science and online social networks like Facebook and Twitter. She joined moderator Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press and speakers Julie Coiro of the University of Rhode Island and Dan Kahan of Yale Law School.

Dominique Brossard is pictured. CREDIT UW-Madison

Dominique Brossard is pictured. CREDIT UW-Madison

Fake news, Brossard says, is produced using false information, with the goal of sharing it as real news to influence people. However, “in the context of science, I think this is much murkier and unclear.”

She recalled an unpublished study she conducted while a graduate student at Cornell University in which she examined science coverage of the supermarket tabloid Weekly World News. The black and white magazine reported on “strange news,” like 30-pound newborns, giant insects and alien abductions. Most of it was made up. But some stories, Brossard says, were based on odd-but-true science. It was a way of enticing readers who were not always certain what was real and what was not.

“We’ve always had things that can be called inaccurate,” she says. “The problem in the science realm is deciding where is the line between bad science reporting and fake news.”

For instance, is a news story that says caffeine might cure cancer, based on a study of just 10 people, fake news or is the study just poorly reported?

Unlike other kinds of fake news, inaccurate science news often spreads through social networks because it sometimes offers hope, Brossard says. People will share stories that fit what they want to believe, like a new treatment might cure a loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease.

“Journalists are not all well-trained to assess the validity of a study,” she says. “They are trying to find the human interest and the hope — a headline like: ‘New study brings hope to families with Alzheimer’s.'”

Efforts like those of Facebook, which added an option to report fake news, are not going to solve the problem for science, Brossard says. “It may not be a fake story but just bad reporting. Maybe it’s not a great scientific study, although I bet if you read the study they mention the limitations.”

So, what is the answer?

Brossard offers three paths toward better science communication and less inaccuracy in science news.

“As scientists, we need to actually know what we’re doing with respect to communicating science and break the echo chambers as much as we can,” she says, explaining that social science research shows simply offering “more facts” to people will not change minds. In fact, it can cause people to double down on their beliefs. Rather, she says, scientists need to find common ground with others, including nonscientists.

As part of this, she suggests scientists need to take responsibility for communicating science by being willing to talk to and work with journalists, to help explain and contextualize their work.

“We need to train scientists themselves to talk about their results and scientists need to be out there,” she says. “If we don’t, the reporter is going to call someone else. It’s our responsibility to make sure fake news or bad reporting is not disseminating.”

Second, agencies and institutions must do a better job of what Brossard calls “quality or brand control.” She uses Coca-Cola as an example. The company monitors news around the world and flags any media in which it is mentioned, looks at related conversations taking place on social media and launches damage control whenever necessary. Institutions and agencies should be doing this with their science and act when studies are misinterpreted, she says, though there is currently no systematic way to do this.

Third, Google and other search engines should remove retracted studies from search results, Brossard says. For instance, Andrew Wakefield’s falsified and discredited study in 1998 fraudulently linking autism and vaccines is still available, though online it is marked as retracted. This does not always matter to the mother or father concerned about the health of their child.

“If I tell you that 87 percent of scientists believe there is no link because the evidence shows that, but then there is this one study, many parents will say: ‘I’m not going to take the risk. I’m going to believe that one,'” Brossard says. “It’s not that people don’t trust science, it’s that they are going to use science that fits their beliefs.”

While efforts like medical writer and journalism instructor Ivan Oransky’s blog Retraction Watch — which roots out retractions and cases of fraud among scientific publications — have been instrumental in bringing attention to inaccurate or false studies, Brossard says bad studies might still resurface and Retraction Watch can’t catch everything, although they now report between 500 and 600 retractions a year.

“Social media has played a big role,” Brossard says. “It’s a way for people that share a set of beliefs to be assured they’re not alone.”

Which is why, she says, it’s important to get science news right from the start.

“There is not a clear dichotomy between fake news and real news,” she says. “Scientists should engage in communicating their work and realize it’s not ‘us versus them, the public.’ They need to be aware of the consequences of what they say and take into account what we know about science communication. They shouldn’t shy away.”

###

Advertisements

87 thoughts on “Silly PR: Communications expert explains how science should respond to fake news

  1. The study suprized me in not being a defense of global warming. There is a lot of very weak information out there, and much of it has support from influential groups and people.
    Consider diet and health. There is a strong and vocal vegan element, a strong low-fat diet element, a anti-saturated fat element, an anti-sugar element, an anti-high fructose corn syrup element, and so forth. Some of those have or had government support, and all have very vehement advocates. In my humble opinion, none of the diets have a “settled” case, despite the claims of their advocates.
    I deliberately used an example outside of climate science, as I think science is a process, not revealed wisdom.

    • Adding to you point on diets and the majority of medical studies in general – The results of most medical studies tend to show a positive result of a small portion of the tested subjects and a large segment of the tested group having a neutral result or inconclusive result, with the obvious large uncertainty. Additionally these studies will have numerous factors that could not be controlled which leads to a partial explanation of why the range of inconclusive results is so large.

      The global warming studies on the other hand have much larger number of factors that could not be controlled, yet will have a much higher factor as to the accuracy of thier results.

    • fake news = false positives + grant bias + publication bias = modern science

      truth: we spent a zillion dollars and found a billion different ways to not cure cancer. our careers are over if this gets out.

      published: we spent a zillion dollars and identified a billion potential cures for cancer. all we need now is more money.

      • The FDA/NIH has routinely shot down/fudged results of cheap stuff/treatments that didn’t support their pharmaceutical buddies. A few examples: injected vitamin C for some cancers (Linus Pauling requested tests but which were modified by NIH to produce negative results), Burzynski fight/lawsuits which resulted in FDA testing that is so slow that he will probably die of old age first, Duesberg requests early on in HIV investigations requesting grants for studies of illegal drugs effects that caused symptoms that looked like HIV (not only were grants denied he was viciously attacked as a denier which should have immediately raised flags), usage of porcine bladder matrix to regrow human tissue (IED injured soldier had 90% recovery of missing thigh muscle), use of cheap Phenyl Butyl Nitrone for stroke, heart attacks and mental deterioration (never tested), my wife who has Grave’s that was cleared by not eating milk and related foods (severe allergy she discovered to milk products) or gluten, my experience of fixing a thin vertebrae disk (2 doctors said only surgery would solve) with an inversion table. It’s really no wonder that people doing individual research come away with a bad attitude toward the FDA and their AMA minions “guidance”. Might also explain why they would dearly love to gain control over supplements and treatments that are outside of their approved “results”.

      • fake news = false positives + grant bias + publication bias = post modern, Progressive, precautionary “science.”
        The incorporation of ‘precautionism’ into science installed a minimum bar of evidence, that of speculation, (speculation based evidence), itself a crucial feature of Marxist, eco-Progressive policy based evidence. At this juncture, placing inverted commas around science as in “science” achieves the necessary caveat emptor. Personally I would promote a new spelling of the word altogether, as in ‘skience’, simply to avoid inadvertently confusing or intentionally conflating the two distinct methodologies.

      • A late, dear friend of mine, a pharmaceutical company executive and all around deep thinker, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was adamant that those wishing to make a donation in his memory avoid giving to cancer research because he had concluded, and could argue persuasively, that it had become a large industry and as such had every reason *not* to find a cure for cancer (or anything else).

        It’s fairly clear that institutions that require vast amounts of money to do some kind of “good” with an immeasurable or ill-defined goal (e.g. government, climate “science”, “feed the children”) can easily become bureaucratic industries that will act in the best interest of the self-same bureaucracy irrespective of whether doing so contradicts their stated goals.

        I believe economists may term this behavior “rent seeking”.

    • A low fat (~10% calories from fat), Vegan, starch based diet works fine and is healthy, I can testify from experience. There have been some misleading studies which don’t use a real low fat diet and end up testing a bad diet with a worse one. And, BTW, I’m a strong political conservative and not at all a fan of “ethical” veganism.

      • There are a lot of individual differences, but some large studies of institutionalized persons, where the diet could be controlled, did not show health benefits for a low fat diet, including one that was suppressed by its author (ancel Keyes).

    • Another “diat and health” issue was cholesterol. My sister drove my father to the VA hospital for a checkup around his 84th birthday. The doctor told him he should cut back on the bacon and eggs he ate regularly for breakfast, and should eat more fruits and vegetables. According to my sister, he replied,
      “Look, I’m 84 years old. Just how much longer do you expect me to live if I start eating that crap?”
      He’s now 97, so the bacon and eggs every day for breakfast definitely has not shortened his life.

  2. Seth Borenstein and Dan Kahan should worry more about the ‘fake news’ that CO2 is a pollutant, and that AnthroCO2 is a danger.
    ==================

    • Yes, indeed, kim.

      When I read the introductory lines to this post while it was still in my in box, I filled in the blank like this:

      While there’s always been tabloids that make up “alien abductions”, Bigfoot, HAARP, and the like – science has never had a need to bother responding to it. The one exception I know of is anthropogenic global warming.

      THAT is the fake news of the century.

  3. Jealousy and protecting their jobs often drives “scientists” to extreme anti-scientific outbursts. Galileo’s remarkable scientific breakthroughs were bitterly opposed by a secret league of academician Aristotelians led by Lodovico delle Colombe (“dove”). Galileo derisively called them the “Pigeon-League”. Their jobs and reputations at risk and unable to counter his experimental results and science, the Pigeon-League accused Galileo of heresy to the Inquisition. While Galileo modeled “simplico” (simpleton) after Colombe, Galileo was accused of publicly lampooning his friend Pope Pope Urban VIII.
    The dispute between Galileo and the Church

  4. Is it just me, I kinda hate dichotomies, and no it is not just the difficulty in spelling it.
    Kinda like when you’ve got a shot at the 8 ball, but your gonna need some spin to avoid the scratch, and there are 3 bikers holding cues that wanna see their buddy lose to ya.
    Talk about pressure :)

  5. To be fair, most of what she said there seems to be perfectly reasonable. We can all put our own slants on it by what we think is good or bad science,

    • Second your observation. I was expecting some kind of sub-rosa support for CAGW, but nothing reared its ugly head in this article.

      • But she does say that “scientists” should get out there and talk about their work. My triggers are Cook, Mann and Schmidt and Hansen. They get “out there” but refuse to engage in debate. Borenstein “runs” to them, but never seeks alternative interpretations. So the press operates on the premise that government and university scientists must be right, even if other qualified scientists think they may be spreading “fake news”. I don’t mind her analysis but it doesn’t answer some very basic questions. I see her supporting the idea that government science should be withheld until it has been verified. How do you comprise “getting out there” and checking the efficacy of what you are “putting out there”? Five hundred to 600 retractions per year indicates that a lot of what is “out there’ shouldn’t have been “out there”.

      • This isn’t the scientific method we were taught in high school. BUT, and it is a big but, this is the scientific method as actually practiced. Unless you are willing to put the hard yards in and promote your theories, nobody will take notice of you. If your theory replaces an older theory that other scientists have emotional baggage in, you will encounter resistance and white-anting at every turn.

      • R2Dtoo February 18, 2017 at 3:28 pm
        I don’t have an issue with scientists ‘getting out there’. We all know at wuwt that any theory that gets exposed here to the disinfectant of sunshine , from either side of the argument, will soon have any flaws exposed.

  6. Third, Google and other search engines should remove retracted studies from search results

    No. A thousand times NO. Keeping retracted studies available (but marked as retracted) is a vital part of advancing science. You cannot advance science without understanding the mistakes that have been made, and “disappearing” a bad study allows those who produced it to hide from scrutiny, their incompetence or deliberate malfeasance now cloaked from view. This would also would allow the journals which were duped into publishing the papers to escape scrutiny their incompetence from scrutiny.

    Worse (MUCH WORSE) there is this increasingly accepted call from certain segments of society for companies like Google and Facebook to use their power to limit, control and direct the flow of information for the “good” of the public. Who draws the line on this very slippery slope? This would concentrate enormous power in the hands of the very few.

    Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    ~ Baron Acton

    • THe main problem with the Wakefield study was that it took 10 years to get it retracted. It barely matters if they do or don’t remove the retracted papers from search engines because the majority of fake science is never condemned.

      • Tiny – adding to your comment – Steve McIntyre’s due diligence over at ClimateAudit.org has resulted the retraction of 2-3 studies (possibly a lot more, along with numerous studies that didnt get published since real peer reviewers put the brakes on due in part to SM’s persistence on ethical standards).

        Whereas the fanatics condemn SM quite mercifully as a denier, etc when he points out the errors, without any later acknowledgement of the retraction.

      • “THe main problem with the Wakefield study was that it took 10 years to get it retracted.”

        I looked into the matter myself, and it looks to me like the retraction is the “fake news” aspect, not the study. I suggest others be skeptical of “retractions” too, when there’s billions of dollars on the line . .

      • JohnKnight, irrespective of the right or wrong answer he came to, his methods and the number of subjects in his study should have made it invalid from the get go. The Lancet should have required that he supply his data with the paper and had he done so the Lancet would probably never have published it. The majority of the other scientists added their name and reputations to a paper they knew almost nothing about and this is just the same as all those climate papers where groups of scientists bump their reputations by co-authering each others work. Peer review doesn’t just suck in climate science, it sucks in most of them.

      • “JohnKnight, irrespective of the right or wrong answer he came to, his methods and the number of subjects in his study should have made it invalid from the get go.”

        Says you . . so what? Please demonstrate what you’re claiming, if you can.

        “The Lancet should have required that he supply his data with the paper and had he done so the Lancet would probably never have published it.”

        Demonstrate, please . .

        “The majority of the other scientists added their name and reputations to a paper they knew almost nothing about …”

        Demonstrate . . I know the corporate mass media story-line . .

      • ~ This is certainly not why I suspect the affair is really a case of character assassination under the direction of one or more major pharmaceutical interests, since this recent development occurred years after I researched the matter originally, but please consider it;

        ‘British Court Throws Out Conviction of Autism/Vaccine MD: Andrew Wakefield’s Co-Author Completely Exonerated’

        “Justice John Mitting ruled on the appeal by Walker-Smith, saying that the GMC “panel’s determination cannot stand. I therefore quash it.” He said that its conclusions were based on “inadequate and superficial reasoning and, in a number of instances, a wrong conclusion.” The verdict restores Walker-Smith’s name to the medical register and his reputation to the medical community.”

        (I don’t vouch for this particular source, I just chose it at random)

        http://healthimpactnews.com/2012/british-court-throws-out-conviction-of-autismvaccine-md-andrew-wakefields-co-author-completely-exonerated/

        Seriously, I think folks here would do well to apply some of that famous skepticism ; ) to this instance, and the whole of vaccine assumptions/claims. It’s not that I think no vaccines are safe and effective, but that I think we are being over vaccinated for profit . . and keeping the entire realm unquestionable, is no different to me than keeping the CAGW unquestionable. I’m for testing them, not eliminating them . .

      • The Wakefield drama is well documented, not least by journalist Brian Deer who was probably the only reason Wakefield got properly dealt with. The Lancet and the medical profession would have happily buried the issue and just said that the paper was wrong, than have their own lax behaviour outed. I think Deer’s actions are much closer to those of Steve McIntyre than those of Wakefield who more resembles Dr Mann. I don’t expect you to believe it, but then I really don’t care if you don’t.

        http://briandeer.com/mmr/lancet-summary.htm

      • “The Wakefield drama is well documented, not least by journalist Brian Deer who was probably the only reason Wakefield got properly dealt with.”

        pfft . . I rest my case ; )

      • No one else did what John Deer did.

        That was essentially an excellent audit. Casting aspersions on Deer because he is a journalist is a cheap shot.

        We should cast aspersions on the science of medicine for not carrying out a similar audit before Deer did a journalistic investigation.

    • davidmhoffer, surprisingly I agree with you that retracted papers should not be removed. Although removing them from search engines like google would not remove them from history. I don’t know the details of what is suggested, but I presume they would remain on academic search engines and maybe google scholar.

  7. Dividing the world of beliefs into things that work and don’t work is a good place to start. How many times in my lifetime have I heard the phrase, ‘ we thought this, but now know something different ‘. I can also hold two contradicting ideas at the same time. Most fake news doesn’t fit with things that I assume to be true, that has a working basis, and the news has to have some sort of revalence. World Weekly put out a lot of things that I have discarded, don’t remember, don’t want to either. However, the things that you do remember might be true. Note I said might be. So I hold on to that looking for verification. And out of years of articles in World Weekly, one did, an article in July or August of 1963. The technology to do amniotic synthesis didn’t exist, yet there it was, and I understood what it was. Why do I read that ? The same reason I read Mad, it’s fun. If they talk about fake, it reminds of Gaillieo, ‘ now nothing will happen if you just say this is fiction’. Should we have banned Star Trek? How many ideas in Star Trek are now reality ?
    Freedom of speech is what it is. What I’m against is people claiming that because I oppose their political agenda on saving the world from climate change that I’m worse than criminal. From my view point warming isn’t a major threat, cooling is. And from the beginning, I saw climate change as a way to breathe new life into the nuclear industry. Solar and wind just don’t produce enough, nor is it reliable. There never was any debate before the science was called settled. That’s why I think it’s fake. But that’s my decision. If I convince you through the use of evidence that it’s fake, and you thought otherwise, then that’s good. If you can convince me that the threat is real and is happening then that’s good. Changing the records to fit the models only convinces me that the science is fake.

    • “World Weekly put out a lot of things that I have discarded, don’t remember, don’t want to either. ” The best cover story I ever saw WWN put out was one where a lady claimed that a UFO had landed in her back yard and an alien had mated with her weed eater… :<) We lost something like 20 or 30 man-hours over that one. The whole floor went berserk until lunch hour cool down.

  8. I agreed mostly with what she was saying, until I got to this statement near the end of article:

    “Which is why, she says, it’s important to get science news right from the start.”

    the problem of course comes from the reality that science is a constantly self-correcting process (or at least most of the honest, non-climate-related science is). Take for example the somewhat recent BICEP-2 study. After publication in a top level journal and wide-spread media reporting, the paper’s authors subsequently retracted when other groups pointed out a major problem the researchers had made in assumptions on other sources of the CMB-polarization signals they sought to examine. Somehow, the rush and authors’ excitement to get their findings and conclusions through the original peer-review did not stop the paper, but at least subsequent, serious expert questions arose that forced the retraction. The process of science (the method of science) corrected the original unfounded (unsupported by the data-method used) claim.

    In that sense, it was impossible for the non-expert science news reporters to get science news right from the start. when the expert scientists and journal unknowingly got it wrong. In the BICEP-2 case the retraction came quick enough to erase the original claim from collective memory.

    But what if the original BICEP-2 authors had resisted the counter-arguments from the other group? What if there were substantial political-economic actors at play that desperately wanted the original BICEP-2 findings to be correct?

    What if big grant money was at stake for the success of the original claim?

    This is where climate was in the late 1980’s, as the UNFCCC came to being and political actors like Al Gore are involved. Political actors who were (and those who’ve followed in their footsteps) are in a position to reward the original claimants’ findings with more research money and any of those who would follow their lead. Of course most WUWT readers get it that climate science became corrupted by the flow of big money to support a political cause (Agenda 21, restructuring western-style capitalism into a one-world government of socialism) that has turned into the biggest science fraud of the last 100 years (or more, or maybe EVAH?)

    Now since there is so much riding on keeping the Big Science of climate change right wrong/b> from the start, can it ever now self-correct without exposing so many reputations to discredit?

    “Getting it right from the start” becomes more than a mere paper retraction or two for correcting the current dismal state of climate science.

    • “…the reality that science is a constantly self-correcting process…”

      I agree with this statement, but it has limitations . I put in some words about the true nature of the scientific method earlier. But before science can self correct, bad science is first published. Many times these days, it is accompanied with a press release and pushed before an uneducated public.

      Think about this in terms of the vaccination causes autism crowd, for instance, whereby many people jumped onto this idea because it agreed with their prejudices. No matter how often the correct facts are put out there, many people will continue to hold onto this.

      And yet I can’t say new scientific discoveries should be held back until they become accepted (somehow). The public is interested and there are many such discoveries that subsequently become accepted. Their next grant relies on public acclamation to a large degree, and therefore further development of the discovery.

      Perhaps the “solution” lies with a better educated public that isn’t quite so willing to accept every little thought bubble put out by the scientific community. If we had had that, we wouldn’t have this global warming fraud to deal with.

    • “In that sense, it was impossible for the non-expert science news reporters to get science news right from the start. ”
      Getting science news right from the start would be to honestly report the BICEP study when it was published. Always the caveat that a single paper is not definitive should be included. Then publish follow up stories as the information changes. There is no other way.

      Getting the science news right is not the same as demanding that the science is right. The news was that a paper was published.

  9. I agreed mostly with what she was saying, until I got to this statement near the end of article:

    “Which is why, she says, it’s important to get science news right from the start.”

    the problem of course comes from the reality that science is a constantly self-correcting process (or at least most of the honest, non-climate-related science is). Take for example the somewhat recent BICEP-2 study. After publication in a top level journal and wide-spread media reporting, the paper’s authors subsequently retracted when other groups pointed out a major problem the researchers had made in assumptions on other sources of the CMB-polarization signals they sought to examine. Somehow, the rush and authors’ excitement to get their findings and conclusions through the original peer-review did not stop the paper, but at least subsequent, serious expert questions arose that forced the retraction. The process of science (the method of science) corrected the original unfounded (unsupported by the data-method used) claim.

    In that sense, it was impossible for the non-expert science news reporters to get science news right from the start. when the expert scientists and journal unknowingly got it wrong. In the BICEP-2 case the retraction came quick enough to erase the original claim from collective memory.

    But what if the original BICEP-2 authors had resisted the counter-arguments from the other group? What if there were substantial political-economic actors at play that desperately wanted the original BICEP-2 findings to be correct?

    What if big grant money was at stake for the success of the original claim?

    This is where climate was in the late 1980’s, as the UNFCCC came to being and political actors like Al Gore are involved. Political actors who were (and those who’ve followed in their footsteps) are in a position to reward the original claimants’ findings with more research money and any of those who would follow their lead. Of course most WUWT readers get it that climate science became corrupted by the flow of big money to support a political cause (Agenda 21, restructuring western-style capitalism into a one-world government of socialism) that has turned into the biggest science fraud of the last 100 years (or more, or maybe EVAH?)

    Now since there is so much riding on keeping the Big Science of climate change right wrong/b> from the start, can it ever now self-correct without exposing so many reputations to discredit?

    “Getting it right from the start” becomes more than a mere paper retraction or two for correcting the current dismal state of climate science.

  10. The root cause of ‘Fake News’ or Fake Science is dishonesty. People willfully report what is not true, to mislead their intended audiences. Corrective actions for deliberate dishonesty in academia and journalism should be loss of credentials, fines, and jail time for the persons involved. Without the real prospects of punishment, this protected class of dishonesty has no disincentives… and no reason to change.

    A professor in communications and behavioral sciences like Prof. Brossard should know this. If she really wanted to effect honest change, she would focus her attention on behavioral modifications needed to minimize dishonesty in news and science, rather than aiding the dishonest with improved methods to ‘contextualize their works’.

      • And recklessly asserting as fact what you know you do not know, is deceit and culpable: you knew you did not know.

      • Nope. BB. (that was funny, but, nope :) ).

        I mean it like this:

        Do — not — lie — to — me.

        (youtube — Batman)

        (sure wish I could talk like that when I needed to….. like at a strange (the one I go to is great) car repair place…. “Do not even THINK of telling me something is wrong that isn’t.”)

        #(:))

      • On the PHONE, I’d use that voice. lol — the horrifying incongruity would make them too terrified to serve me if I lip synced it in person

    • The problem is Progressives in academia and journalism have abandoned the notion of shame. My take on their lack of shame is two-fold. First, shame has no place when one feels justification for dishonesty because of the corrupting influence they are doing so for a larger, “noble cause.” The second is “virtue signaling” within their peer-group for acceptance (or more powerfully, not wanting to be ostracized or be labeled with the D-word).

      And without shame (or more pointedly, an ethical conscience that makes one feel bad about a particular dishonesty or set of dishonesties, i.e. climate change), one becomes prone to (or allows for) Orwell’s concept of “DoubleThink.”

      Here is where the Wikipedia explanation of DoubleThink is worth quoting and considering in the context of post-normal news and current fake science” that engulfs government Climate Science.

      Doublethink is the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts.[1] Doublethink is related to, but differs from, hypocrisy and neutrality. Also related is cognitive dissonance, in which contradictory beliefs cause conflict in one’s mind. Doublethink is notable due to a lack of cognitive dissonance — thus the person is completely unaware of any conflict or contradiction.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublethink

      In normal times, the cognitive dissonance (a psychological discomfort) that comes from one’s deeply-held belief system in conflict with one or more objective facts/observations, the belief system is corrected.

      A simple example of cognitive dissonance and the correcting of a belief: A parent’s deeply-held belief that their adult-child is a trustworthy person and thus refuses to accept someone telling them that their adult-child is not honest. Only when the are confronted with irrefutable 1st person evidence their child is not honest (say for example, video of him robbing a bank) does that conflict with their belief system force them to correct the belief that indeed their child is not trustworthy.

      These are no longer “normal times”. The access to the internet and blogs (like Judith Curry’s, JoNova’s, Tony Heller’s, and of course Anthony’s WUWT) have upset the main stream media’s grip on dissemination of information and disinformation (yes, the media many times lies and tells half-truths, and so do governments, including our own, past and present). Both tabloid fake news and the US government climate propaganda are now subject to independent fact checking by the common person via the internet and these blogs.

      The use of half-truths is probably the most sophisticated of media lying (propaganda, generating alt-realities), because it takes an essentially irrefutably true element, then omits contradictory info or uncertainty, to propagate a larger deception. We see this most vividly in climate science with the refusal of many “climate scientists” to publicly acknowledge deep scientific uncertainties in the climate change story, thus it becomes propaganda. From a political standpoint, the contrived (fake) climate consensus cannot acknowledge the huge uncertainties in the CO2 science, the climate models junk nature, and the underlying error-filled data, else the narrative falls apart and trillions of dollars of policy collapses.

      And the mainstream media is now rapidly losing credibility, and not just for supporting for too long the propaganda-lies of government climate change science, but for their hopes of pursuing the larger Progressive Noble Cause.

      • I am not sure which of these J Obrien posts to respond to. But I will try here.

        I will suggest that a major root of the problem is the “Action Research” philosophy, and that the origination and promotion of “Action Research” is part of the Communists striving to take over our world.

        Basics:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Lewin
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_research

        To catch up to the back story, read Wikipedia on Hegel / Hegelian dialectic, then review the way that Karl Marx adopted the Hegelian dialectic and decided that all social problems, which Hegel and Marx were wont to solve (Saviour Complex – they know better than the rest of us), could be boiled down to a well-recognized “Hegelian Dialectic” of the bourgeoisie/proletariats, haves/have-nots, owners of means of production/laborers producing the product.

        Marx believed that the “synthesis” would be the workers also being the owners. Hence Communism.

        To push us to resolve this historical dialectic in its supposedly eventual synthesis, Marx favored revolution.

        He supposed WW1 would spur that revolution. It did not.

        In the next generation of Marxist problem-solvers/philosophers/intellectuals, they came up with the idea that it was not all about economic relations – who ruled economically – but about culture – who gets to script the values we hold. Their answer was “the cultural hegemony.” This idea was mainly advanced by the Frankfurt School, the heirs-apparent to Marx’s Saviour Complex.

        So, Culture had to be understood. Hence the “Institute for Social Research.”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_for_Social_Research

        One guy, K. Lewin, with this huge boost in sociology research, changed the world, in a sense:
        he decided that a bunch of scientists simply studying things for the apparent goal of building human knowledge was not OK, and that all of us scientists should ALWAYS value the “social change” that our science will enable and foster. <—Fast forward to today. Now, EVERY fun run, every birthday party, and even each wedding reception speech in my crowd, MUST have some redeeming social-"improvement" value – So, I have twice heard a groom speak at his reception (to his female bride) that there is a pall over his nuptials as long as same-sex couples cannot enjoy the same right, all fun runs must benefit a charity, and we attend so many events where in lieu of a gift we are asked to bring "a nonperishable food item."

        Here is where I am going with this well-documented history lesson: Journalists are NOW taught that they are not JUST reporting the news, but their professional job is to "change the world." To make the world better.

        So, there is no longer any such thing as "just the facts." And, since "change the world" is valued before accuracy, accuracy can take a back seat.

        ^ -that is my thesis on the state of current journalism. They are allowed to fudge, infer, edit, spin, and lie because they have a higher cause – Saviour Complex.

        This "Action Research" value has led to a lot in society. I am not a sociologist, or a historian, but no one else is out there saying this. It is all laid out there, and obvious.

        I have read the Code of Ethics for a handful of professions. Since the Frankfurt School has set its seed, MANY now hold "social justice" values. Nursing, Psychology, Social Work. Go look them up. Not only are they supposed to do their job, but, as "science" is now supposed to do, they are supposed to hunt down and correct "injustice."

        In medicine, it used to just be Doctors Without Borders. Now the AMA has pronouncements on our carbon footprint, AAFP is against the CAGW, etc.

        WaPo reports: "Chelsea Clinton’s new book for young folk, “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!,” –All about: Our prevailing society is bad, now go force the Hegelian Dialectic, and change it!!

        Girl Scout books – check Amazon or anywhere else:
        "It's Your World – Change It!," and "Get Moving! (Girl Scout Journey Books, It's your planet-love it!)," and more.

        And this "change the world" meme is the context, value, or setting in which our public-education school kids all learn "science." <–It always has to have the theme that things are terrible in the world, with catastrophe imminent, unless you go confront the bad guys and change things. The theme is that science (or scouting, or journalism, or the profession of Nursing) has no value unless you are deliberately seeking out social injustice and righting those injustices – doing a central line well so as to avoid infection? Forget that – we must find more oppressed groups and "empower" them through Nursing!
        Nursing Code of Ethics has 9 provisions:
        "Provision 8: The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to protect and promote human rights, health diplomacy, and health initiatives; Provision 9: The profession of nursing, collectively through its professional organizations, must articulate nursing values, maintain the integrity of the profession, and integrate principles of social justice into nursing and health policy. "

        –Trying to improve society is fine. The problem is that Marxists think that this is all there is, they advance this philosophy in underhanded ways, and the solutions are not piecemeal/incremental, but are frank, bloody revolution. When you hear this stuff, go explore and you will eventually trace all of these indicators back to Lewin and his Frankfurt School communist colleagues.

    • The problem is Progressives in academia and journalism have abandoned the notion of shame. My take on their lack of shame is two-fold. First, shame has no place when one feels justification for dishonesty because of the corrupting influence they are doing so for a larger, “noble cause.” The second is “virtue signaling” within their peer-group for acceptance (or more powerfully, not wanting to be ostracized or be labeled with the D-word).

      And without shame (or more pointedly, an ethical conscience that makes one feel bad about a particular dishonesty or set of dishonesties, i.e. climate change), one becomes prone to (or allows for) Orwell’s concept of “DoubleThink.”

      Here is where the Wikipedia explanation of DoubleThink is worth quoting and considering in the context of post-normal news and current fake science” that engulfs government Climate Science.

      Doublethink is the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts.[1] Doublethink is related to, but differs from, hypocrisy and neutrality. Also related is cognitive dissonance, in which contradictory beliefs cause conflict in one’s mind. Doublethink is notable due to a lack of cognitive dissonance — thus the person is completely unaware of any conflict or contradiction.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublethink

      In normal times, the cognitive dissonance (a psychological discomfort) that comes from one’s deeply-held belief system in conflict with one or more objective facts/observations, the belief system is corrected.

      A simple example of cognitive dissonance and the correcting of a belief: A parent’s deeply-held belief that their adult-child is a trustworthy person and thus refuses to accept someone telling them that their adult-child is not honest. Only when the are confronted with irrefutable 1st person evidence their child is not honest (say for example, video of him robbing a bank) does that conflict with their belief system force them to correct the belief that indeed their child is not trustworthy.

      These are no longer “normal times”. The access to the internet and blogs (like Judith Curry’s, JoNova’s, Tony Heller’s, and of course Anthony’s WUWT) have upset the main stream media’s grip on dissemination of information and disinformation (yes, the media many times lies and tells half-truths, and so do governments, including our own, past and present). Both tabloid fake news and the US government climate propaganda are now subject to independent fact checking by the common person via the internet and these blogs.

      The use of half-truths is probably the most sophisticated of media lying (propaganda, generating alt-realities), because it takes an essentially irrefutably true element, then omits contradictory info or uncertainty, to propagate a larger deception. We see this most vividly in climate science with the refusal of many “climate scientists” to publicly acknowledge deep scientific uncertainties in the climate change story, thus it becomes propaganda. From a political standpoint, the contrived (fake) climate consensus cannot acknowledge the huge uncertainties in the CO2 science, the climate models junk nature, and the underlying error-filled data, else the narrative falls apart and trillions of dollars of policy collapses.

      And the mainstream media is now rapidly losing credibility, and not just for supporting for too long the propaganda-lies of government climate change science, but for their hopes of pursuing the larger Progressive Noble Cause.

  11. The problem doesn’t start with the news, it starts with the scientists themselves. The journalists are unlikely to hear about the science unless someone advertises it (often with a press release). No science should be news until it’s pretty rock solid. We’ve got bored of the endless studies promising something 5 years from now, whether it’s a cure, a super battery, or life on Mars. I don’t care how many caveats they include, it’s still not true until it’s proved. Studies with small sample size shouldn’t even make it into a journal, which would have shut Andrew Wakefield down from the get go.

    Since the professionals, those who ought to know better, are eager to engage in what is little more than gossip, why shouldn’t the public join in?

    • Actually the problem usually starts with the P.R. departments that send out press releases that misstate/misinterpret the findings of the paper in order to hype it to the press. The press, being dumbasses (read that as ill-informed on the subject matter) , just print the release, some times adding more BS around it to show how smart they are.

  12. This airy-fairy theorizing by Brossard is gobble-de-gook, unless we’re getting scientific news that’s straight, un-biased, un-adulterated, un-mannipulated, open to challenge, un-homogenized for tendentious intent, and issued in the spirit of open Scientific Method.
    Brossard completely misses the ‘Elephant in the Room’ which is the Black Cloud hanging over the shattered credibility of Climate Scientists and their Masters.

  13. She doesn’t sound bad or even exceptionally “silly”, but her position is not ideal and could lead to harmful censorship. One of the things that’s missing is that science often proceeds by strenuous, protracted, and even acrimonious debate. Another is that the predominant view is often eventually decided to be wrong. So, the idea that gastric ulcers were caused by a bacterium was scoffed at for a long time by the majority, as was the view that cutting intake of sugar would have health benefits. In such cases, the dominant majority at the time would have had no hesitation in denouncing the minority view as “fake”.

  14. She uses Coca-Cola as an example. The company monitors news around the world and flags any media in which it is mentioned, looks at related conversations taking place on social media and launches damage control whenever necessary.

    You mean like this…???

    http://www.coca-colacompany.com/our-company/coke-raises-over-2-million-to-save-polar-bears

    Polar bears need sea ice platforms for hunting opportunities, to breed and to rest. As climate change melts sea ice and moves the platforms farther apart, the U.S. Geological Survey projects that two-thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050.

  15. No where is this more pervasive than in special education. Even now, therapies are hocked and bought, based on nothing more than the say so of the hocker. Put it in a pretty presentation box, price it high enough, trot it out at an expensive seminar telling the customers they will need continuous yearly training, and you have yourself a gold mine.

    • hawk? Well some of the therapies pushed at us ought to be hocked, although no one in their right mind would redeem them… : > )

    • Pamela, I’m not sure what you described is limited to just the field of special education. The science of education appears to be one of the few where untested theories can be pushed into the field and become widely accepted until some time later disproved by wide application, possibly adversely affecting the education of hundreds, maybe thousands of kids. I would guess that in a lot of the classrooms today, anything that might possibly help the situation is worth at least trying.

  16. There’s a pretty intractable thing going on here isn’t there *and* is exactly of our own making and we keep reinforcing it.
    In the broadest sense, ‘humans’ have created a sink-hole full of mud and the more we struggle, trhe further in we go. (Ha!, positive feedback does happen and is going to be bad)

    The mud-hole we’ve created is ‘information’ OK, some is good, we do need to learn and know about some things but, my point here is that those things should be from sources local to us, from people we know and trust and we should be able to check such information ourselves.

    But, ‘we’ invented ‘The Media’ or maybe the MSM and *it* started bring stories from way outside our own local sphere and of course along the way was ’embellished’. Primarily because a lot of it was mind-numbing and irrelevant trash.
    Example – It may be sad that Mary-Jo Smith dropped her bag of groceries while crossing the road in downtown Chico, a car ran over it and hence Mary-Jo’s young daughter was distraught about not getting her expected candy bar later that day. And Mary Jo broke down in tears because of that.
    In the purest sense, that *is* news but I personally, in Newark Nottinghamshire UK, do not need to know any of that. For me it is gossip, chatter and noise. There’s nothing I can do about it, nothing I especially want to do about it and I’ve got my own daily disasters going on anyway.

    But, I will come upon slow-mo traffic camera footage of Mary Jo’s bag being utterly trashed by the traffic, a utterly distraught woman sobbing her eyes out on the TV evening news as live, on-the-scene breathless reporters tell how she so narrowly escaped life as a cabbage in a wheelchair – making headline news on the BBC here in the UK.
    So, is that Fake News?

    and this Brossard woman is just more irrelevant junk. Why do I need to know the gossipy thoughts of some woman, 1000’s of miles away that I’ll never meet and have no intention of ever doing so

    So there is the mud-hole pulling us in but it gets even worse.
    How many times round here do we hear/read that Technology, primarily Information Technology is the way forward – the future.
    Remember, you won’t, the guy I told you about from New York who quit boozing and in an article (possibly fake of course but my personal ‘sphere’ tells me not) told us he also quit gossip, chatter and noise.
    Because with a clear head, you realise exactly what it is (irrelevant noise) and being clean of the depressant, have the self confidence to call it out for exactly what it is. Junk

    And *that* is why many people around the world don’t like Donald. He’s got an alcohol free clear head, he can filter junk and has the inner personal self confidence to ignore it and move on to other things.

    Muddled, slow, chemically stunted minds don’t like that. He is not one of them and regards their ‘concerns’ (eg Mary Jo and her road traffic shopping incident) as trivial and says as much.

    Those same switched off brains imagine (Magical Thinking at work) that more information is needed and so the mud-hole gets ever larger and tenacious…………………..

  17. Typical bla bla bla bla from a “science communications” expert a la Naomi Oreskes, from UW Madison no less. Would you expect anything better?

    • I haven’t read the actual paper, but from what was said in the main post, this person actually doesn’t seem to have a barrow to push.

  18. The biggest enabler is the lack of science education among the general population. There is a good case to be made that all first year tertiary studies should include wide-ranging, generalist subjects including science to produce a more well-rounded graduate. Let alone more at secondary level. Science and mathematics seem to be getting more and more marginalised.

    Plenty of smart people I know are really science dummies, in no position to think critically about what they are hearing or reading. Two-fold problem: they are willing to entertain quackery and at the same time lose faith in and become more cynical of scientists and their evidence. When the water is muddied with half-truths and fake news that is not going to help.

    • Yeah McClod you still can’t name the law of thermodynamics for solving the temperature of some air.

      It’s not that most people are scientifically illiterate. It’s that all people who believed in AGW have proven themselves scientifically and mathematically illiterate, and innumerate.

    • That is the position of Henry Bauer: That students need a philosophical / sociological overview of science, not just a bunch of courses in specific sciences.

  19. In the last couple of years, there has been a realization, in the scientific community that they have problems with fake data, copied data, withheld data, fraud, plagiarism, gaming the system, and worse. A funded group arose to be a watch dog on fake science, and to advocate for monitoring the fakes, and sharing the stories, retractions, convictions, fakes, and more.

    It’s called Retraction Watch.

    When it first arose, it appeared to be a perfect venue for putting the stake in the heart of fake climate science. The cases it chronicles nearly all parallel the happenings in climate “science.”

    And yet…the guy who runs the site, Ivan Oransky, appears to buy-in to the alarmist line. He refuses to address or discuss climate science misdeeds or false claims.

    It would be great if those who care about the destruction of science could chime in at Retraction Watch with requests to focus on climate science.

    It’s here: http://retractionwatch.com/

  20. Communications expert explains how science should respond to fake news
    Gag Gore and Mann?
    I guess it would take more than that, but that’d be a good start! 8-)

  21. Communications expert explains how science should respond to fake news

    Gag Gore and Mann?
    I guess it would take more than that, but that’d be a good start! 8-)

  22. As part of this, she suggests scientists need to take responsibility for communicating science by being willing to talk to and work with journalists, to help explain and contextualize their work.

    This is not a new problem, and neither are the answers new. This article from 2004 is reasonably helpful:

    “What Journalists Want: Nine Things for Scientists to Think about Before Talking to Reporters ”
    http://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20040621/science.html

    The nine points, in summary:
    1. Understand that Science Journalism Is Educational
    2. Understand Your Audience
    3. Know What Makes a Good Story
    4. Understand Who Reporters Are
    5. Have a General Knowledge of Print Media (…probably outdated here in 2017)
    6. Know How to Give a Broadcast Interview
    7. Know How to Give a Print Interview
    8. Help Journalists Get It Right
    9. Avoid Common Pitfalls

    Now this is only one article so it isn’t a definitive examination, and it assumes that reporters will be non-adversarial. And as the article says:

    At the end of the day, the story is the reporter’s and not the scientist’s. The reporter’s name is on the byline.

  23. I’m thoroughly convinced that climate alarmism is hokum but don’t really see anything to object to in this article. Journalists constantly misconstrue or exaggerate the significance of scientific press releases & can use all the help they can get. I read this as an ad for the “life sciences communications” professor’s field of study.

    I see the concern relative to climate alarmism, since this is exactly what they’ve tried to do; faux-splain away any inconvenient truths that expose their conspiracy as “fake news”. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water; much science reporting is awful for non-ideological reasons and could use improvement.

  24. Readers, Mr. Watts writes;

    “While there’s always been tabloids that make up “alien abductions”, Bigfoot, HAARP, and the like – science has never had a need to bother responding to it. The one exception I know of is this study definitively showing the chemtrails nonsense to be just that.”

    Please note that Mr. Watts never presented any evidence that demonstrated no one is getting into planes (or controlling them remotely) in order to spray things into the atmosphere. He simply assumed (as far as I could tell) that if there are other explanations for what some people have claimed was such spraying going on, then those explanations must be true in all cases, and people cannot be spraying things into the atmosphere.

    Of course people can spray things into the air, even if some people might think something is that happening, when it’s not . . demonstrating they aren’t happening is not the same as demonstrating there are potential explanations for people wrongly thinking they are.

  25. No, as scientists, you need to actually be able to DO the SCIENCE and have the ANSWER come out RIGHT. FACTS are the ONLY things that change most peoples’ minds against belief.

    We’re gonna CATCH YOU when YOU CAN’T DO it. And that’s all there fuggin is TO it.

    Everything else is the back room deals and snitching people off to the law. We aren’t here to be sh*t on by people without consciences. If you can DO the SCIENCE and have WORKED DOING IT
    you probably have something to say.

    IF YOU HAVE NOT
    then everything you say is going to wind up like those global warmers’ reputations. In the sewer.

    “As scientists, we need to actually know what we’re doing with respect to communicating science and break the echo chambers as much as we can,” she says, explaining that social science research shows simply offering “more facts” to people will not change minds.

    Everything said by a journalist or anyone who writes or performs in media, should be taken with an ENORMOUS

    grain of salt until you find out WHO PAYS their BILLS. THAT will explain EVERYTHING.

  26. Does anyone else have the perception that warmists write as much about how to get their message out or how to defeat those that oppose them than they do about the climate?

  27. The cure is giving people tools to recognize the key factors in quality and the understanding of uncertainty. Socially speaking though, people prefer listening to experts that make factual statements despite uncertainty.

    You don`t fix the news, you teach people..

  28. She missed a trick.

    Before a paper has been reviewed, eg Gergis et al, the likes of the Guardian and the BBC trumpet the findings as news.

    When papers like Gergis’ are withdrawn there is no correction.

    Its all about getting a message across.

  29. “While there’s always been tabloids that make up “alien abductions”, Bigfoot, HAARP, and the like – science has never had a need to bother responding to it. The one exception I know of is this study definitively showing the chemtrails nonsense to be just that.”

    Well consider: to nearly all scientists climate skepticisms arguments are mostly no more reputable than those who believe in that catalogue.

    • Griff,

      This is what I consider; Griff said something about what he imagines nearly all climate scientists make of arguments against CAGW. Sorry if that disappoints ; )

  30. Billions mocking a dozen who say the sky is blue will not suddenly turn the sky purple with pink polka dots.

    Lazy drive-by ad populem argument. Try again.

  31. The “Fake News!” mantra has absolutely nothing to do with truth. The only point is to create a populace that only believes what the President says.

    Dangerous days indeed.

  32. … she suggests scientists need to take responsibility for communicating science by being willing to talk to and work with journalists, to help explain and contextualize their work.

    I see no evidence that journalists are ready, willing, and able, to be educated.

    • Scientists need to take responsibility for being flat out wrong instead of trying to convince journalists that they are right by manipulating data.

  33. I read on physicist’s estimate that 50% of published physics is wrong. If so, most of this article is unworkable and not-sensical. It’s a coin-flip.

  34. Embarrasing article. The very beginning lists HAARP as the same as Bigfoot. HAARP is an actual project, Anthony. It exists and no one denies it. It’s function may be questioned, at least by conspiracists, but its existence is not in dispute. Bigfoot is pretty well considered imaginary.

Comments are closed.