Sunday, 5 February 2017
Beware of Fake Science News Stories!
Science publications have recently made a big issue of fake news and the post-truth world. They were very outspoken in whom they thought should be the better president in the recent US elections.
And it seems that they haven’t yet recovered from their big disappointment.
Writing on the website of American Council on Science and Health, Dr. Alex Berezow brings a touch of very welcome sanity into the matter of what science journalism is about (but shouldn’t be).
He mentions two disturbing trends:
1.”Too many science journalists don't actually possess a well-rounded knowledge of science. In many cases, regular reporters are asked to cover complex science and health stories.”
2. “Science journalists are every bit as biased as their more traditional counterparts, perhaps even more so. They routinely hold double standards in regard to analyzing science policies. They conflate scientific evidence with science policy, immediately labeling anyone "anti-science" if he or she disagrees with their cultural beliefs. Worse, science journalists feel no inhibition whatsoever to cheerlead openly for their favorite politicians and to heap scorn upon those they dislike.”
Dr. Berezow goes on to say:
“Both cultural bias and thoughtless reportage severely erode the integrity of science journalism.”
He then gives some tips for detecting fake science news stories. He says, for instance, that if the article is sensational, or about evolutionary psychology, or fails to make a distinction between evidence and science policy, or does not mention the limitations of the study it is reporting, we have good reasons to be suspicious.
Berezow, Alex. 2017. How to Spot a Fake Science News Story. American Council on Science and Health. (31 January).