COVID-19 and fake news

Last month, Nature published an article by Timothy Caulfield on the impact of fake news during this pandemic crisis.

Facebook groups are full of conspiracy theories on the origin of the virus and absurd cures for the COVID-19. Among them, we read that the virus was created in the lab, it is caused by 5G and that you can cure COVID-19 by injecting bleach (DON’T DO IT!!!).

All these fake news are causing a pandemic of (mis)information, a so-called, infodemic.

The problem is old: scientists are distant from society and scientific language is often inaccessible to the general public.

What can we do to build (or re-build) the trust in science? It is quite simple: scientists should be more involved. And social media can help a lot. Just tweet or write an Instagram post or make a TikTok video and comment the latest news on COVID-19 (climate change, vaccines or something related to your field of expertise).

Here, some advice useful for effective science communication.

1. Be accurate: if we want to build trust in science, we need to report data as they are.

2. Avoid jargon: you are not impressing your fellowship committee, you are talking to people who want to know more about science, in an accessible language.

3. Be authentic: sometimes (well, often!) results are partial, they show correlation and not causation. Don’t hide it. Explain it.

4. Be patient: take your time to go deep into the explanation if your public asks for it. Don’t engage with trolls at the same level, but try to support science with evidence and fact.

It is not always easy, but I strongly believe that scientists should be involved in science communication.

Remember:

Many small people who in many small places do many small things that can alter the face of the world.

References:

Caulfield, 2020, “Pseudoscience and COVID-19 — we’ve had enough already”, doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01266-z

Fearon et al., 2020, “Pivotal moment for trust in science – don’t waste it”, doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01145-7

Yammine, 2020, “Going viral: how to boost the spread of coronavirus science on social media”, doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01356-y

Published by Martina Bodner

Biotechnologist, PhD Candidate in Food Chemistry, Science Teacher, STEM and autism advocate, mother.

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