People Don’t Trust Scientific Research When Companies are Involved

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By John C. Besley, Michigan State University; Aaron M. McCright, Michigan State University; Joseph D. Martin, University of Leeds; Kevin Elliott, Michigan State University, and Nagwan Zahry, Michigan State University

People seem to think industry-funded research belongs in the garbage.
mllejules/Shutterstock.com

A soda company sponsoring nutrition research. An oil conglomerate helping fund a climate-related research meeting. Does the public care who’s paying for science?

In a word, yes. When industry funds science, credibility suffers. And this does not bode well for the types of public-private research partnerships that appear to be becoming more prevalent as government funding for research and development lags.

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Fake News, Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles: Underresearched and Overhyped

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By William H. Dutton, Michigan State University

Don’t panic: An international survey finds concerns about fake news are overblown. studiostoks/shutterstock.com

In the early years of the internet, it was revolutionary to have a world of information just a click away from anyone, anywhere, anytime. Many hoped this inherently democratic technology could lead to better-informed citizens more easily participating in debate, elections and public discourse.

Today, though, many observers are concerned that search algorithms and social media are undermining the quality of online information people see. They worry that bad information may be weakening democracy in the digital age.

The problems include online services conveying fake news, splitting users into “filter bubbles” of like-minded people and enabling users to unwittingly lock themselves up in virtual echo chambers that reinforce their own biases.

These concerns are much discussed, but have not yet been thoroughly studied. What research does exist has typically been limited to a single platform, such Twitter or Facebook. Our study of search and politics in seven nations – which surveyed the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain in January 2017 – found these concerns to be overstated, if not wrong. In fact, many internet users trust search to help them find the best information, check other sources and discover new information in ways that can burst filter bubbles and open echo chambers.

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What Happens When Scientists Stand Up for Science

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By: Brian Martin, University of Wollongong

The 2017 March for Science was a powerful political statement by scientists. The marchers opposed political interference, budget cuts and lack of support for science at a government level.

More commonly, though, scientists stay in their labs and avoid the public political spotlight.

CSIRO scientist John Church – who initially acted as an individual (not a representative of his research institution) to “stand up for science” in 2015 – is cited as a recent example of the career ramifications that can flow from public activity.

Actually, he’s not alone. For years, outspoken scientists have encountered career difficulties and personal repercussions.

But climate science and the advent of digital and social media shape how scientists speak publicly about science now.

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Video: Communicating Science Using YouTube

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“Using YouTube to connect people who do science, with people who want to learn about science.

YouTube is one of the most effective platforms around for communicating about and learning about science. Yet remarkably, given the number of YouTube users out there with a taste for science, there are surprisingly few scientists making videos.

To us, this presented a no-brainer opportunity to use YouTube as a way of connecting researchers who are passionate about their science, with viewers who are equally passionate about watching videos about it.

And so we created Science Showcase.

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Marching for Science in the Deeply Red – Deep South

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Chattanooga March for Science – April 22nd, 2017 – Courtesy of Shirley Zapf‎

On April 22nd, we watched as the world marched for science. Major media did a fine job covering demonstrations happening across the nation and around the world. However, most of what we saw on television and online focused on the largest events – which took place in big cities. Getting less attention, were hundreds of marches in smaller cities that brought people together in support of science.

With thunderstorms looming, residents of Chattanooga, Tennessee took to the streets to make their voices heard. Chattanooga is located in Hamilton County, where 56% of voters chose Donald Trump (39% chose Hillary Clinton) in November’s Presidential Election. Statewide, Trump topped Clinton 61% to 35%. With numbers like that, you’d think residents would be less inclined to participate in a political march targeting the policies of a person many of them helped elect.

The following is a Q&A with Sara Scott, one of the organizers of the Chattanooga March for Science. She defines herself as a feminist, leftist, and mother who has lived in Chattanooga for four years. I was interested in hearing her thoughts about organizing a pro-science event in the deep south.

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