Research reveals strategies for combating science misinformation

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Just as the scientific community was reaching a consensus on the dangerous reality of climate change, the partisan divide on climate change began to widen.

That might seem like a paradox, but it's also no coincidence, says Justin Farrell, a professor of sociology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). It was around this time that an organized network, funded by organizations with a lot to lose in a transition to a low-carbon economy, started to coalesce around the goal of undercutting the legitimacy of .

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Farrell and two co-authors illustrate how a large-scale campaign has eroded in science and stalled efforts to achieve meaningful policy, but also how an emerging field of research is providing new insights into this critical dynamic.

In the paper, they identify potential strategies to confront these misinformation campaigns across four related areas—public inoculation, , political mechanisms, and financial transparency. Other authors include Kathryn McConnell, a Ph.D. student at F&ES, and Robert Brulle at Brown University.

"Many people see these efforts to undermine science as an increasingly dangerous challenge and they feel paralyzed about what to do about it," said Farrell, the lead author of the paper. "But there's been a growing amount of research into this challenge over the past few years that will help us chart out some solutions."

A meaningful response to these misinformation campaigns must include a range of coordinated strategies that counter false content as it is produced and disseminated, Farrell said. But it will also require society to confront the institutional network that enables the spread of this misinformation in the first place.

In the paper, they examine those strategies across the four identified areas:

  • Public inoculation: While a growing body of research shows that an individual's perceptions of science are informed by "cultural cognition"—and thus influenced by their preexisting ideologies and value systems—there is evidence that society can "inoculate" against misinformation by exposing people to refuted scientific arguments before they hear them, much like one can prevent infection through the use of vaccines. This can be strengthened by drawing more attention to the sources of misinformation, and thus similarly build up resistance to their campaigns.
  • Legal strategies: Research has also shown the extent to which some industry leaders tied to the climate misinformation network knowingly misled the public about the dangers of climate change. In response, cities and states in the U.S. and U.K. have filed lawsuits alleging that fossil fuel companies, such as ExxonMobil, downplayed the risks of their products. While such lawsuits can be expensive and time-consuming, has the potential to influence public opinion and "perhaps to further inoculate the public about industry efforts to deliberately mislead them." The authors also describe how an improved understanding of these networks has helped in the legal defense of climate scientists who have come under attack for their research.
  • Political mechanisms: The authors argue that more social science research is needed in order to reveal and better understand how the political process is often manipulated. For instance, they identify a case in which the energy company Entergy Corporation acknowledged hiring a PR firm that in turn paid actors who posed as grassroots supporters of a controversial power plant in New Orleans. They suggest targeted efforts in geographic areas where skepticism of climate change is widespread, including promotion of stronger media coverage of candidate views on climate science, clearer understanding of funding sources, and lawsuits highlighting the effects of climate change in these areas.
  • Financial transparency: A growing share of funding for campaigns that promote science misinformation comes from donor-directed foundations that shield the contributor's identity from the public; in fact, financial giving from these groups quadrupled in the past decade, topping $100 million. While it is often difficult to identify the flow of dollars, nonpartisan organizations tracking money in politics have become important resources for researchers who seek to understand this dynamic. The authors call for new legislation to improve funding transparency.

"We're really just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding the full network of actors and how they're moving money in these efforts," said McConnell, a co-author. "The better we can understand how these networks work, the better the chances that policymakers will be able to create policy that makes a difference."

These strategies must be coordinated in order to be effective, the authors conclude. For instance, they write, "public inoculation and legal strategies depend on improved financial transparency, just as financial transparency can similarly be strengthened by legal strategies that are themselves dependent on continued research into the financial and ideological sources of misinformation."

"Ultimately we have to get to the root of the problem, which is the huge imbalance in spending between opponents and those lobbying for new solutions," said Farrell. "Those interests will always be there, of course, but I'm hopeful that as we learn more about these dynamics things will start to change. I just hope it's not too late."


Explore further

Republicans more persuasive than scientists on climate change

More information: Justin Farrell et al, Evidence-based strategies to combat scientific misinformation, Nature Climate Change (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0368-6
Journal information: Nature Climate Change

Provided by Yale University
Citation: Research reveals strategies for combating science misinformation (2019, January 14) retrieved 17 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-01-reveals-strategies-combating-science-misinformation.html
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Jan 14, 2019
Among other things, the insistence that people believe what those with lab coats say. No one in the public ever really verifies what they are told to believe by "science". They are ordered to believe "science" will not function to promote a political structure.
It's claimed that those with a lot to lose by "fossil fuels" being replaced are opposing claims of "climate change". Note that the Democratic Rackets can use increasing regulations and limiting drilling and mining in "national parks" to ruin Republican investments in coal and oil. At the same time, eliminating "fossil fuels" allows Democratic Rackets investments in "alternative energy" to soar, even though windmill farms cause areas to become abnormally warm and solar farms prevent cloud formation and superheat dust in the air. And, in the end, it's the weather modification program of chemtrails that is causing the aberrations in the atmosphere.

Jan 14, 2019
Keep right on whistling past the graveyard, julianpenrod.

How old are you?

Do you have children?

And -- importantly -- why do uncriticially believe what (a) climate deniers tell you and (b) what your religious sources tell you?

Pot, kettle . . . you know how that goes. Look in the mirror.

Jan 14, 2019
"Just as the scientific community was reaching a consensus on the dangerous reality of climate change, the partisan divide on climate change began to widen."

I love it when the very first sentence in a paper shows how biased the authors are.
Consensus takes no real place in true science.


Jan 14, 2019
"Pot, kettle . . . you know how that goes. Look in the mirror. "

Again, what a laugh!

Wailuku your statement epitomizes the entire article.

Jan 15, 2019
I notice there is no science in this phys.org article, just instructions on how to optimize the use of propaganda and how to control opinions. very ... liberal democrat of the author.

Jan 15, 2019
I notice there is no science in this phys.org article, just instructions on how to optimize the use of propaganda and how to control opinions. very ... liberal democrat of the author.

LMAO.
Congratulations, you've discovered how the AGW Cult have subverted science to propagate their dogma.

Jan 15, 2019
oh my goodness gracious, the denierbots are busy today. Since none of you are competent to recognize scientific evidence or have any moral standing for public discussion? Why should anyone except the blathering nonsense programmed into you artificial stupids?

Jan 16, 2019
So, when do the powers that be open the re-education camps for the non-believers in man-made global warming/

Jan 16, 2019
So, when do the powers that be open the re-education camps for the non-believers in man-made global warming/

All they need to do is fix the abysmal state of the current "education camps" (read: schools).

Teach people to understand stuff rather than regurgitate sound-bites they don't understand and they'll come around by themselves. It seems the current level of basic education isn't sufficient for people to grasp the facts of climate science (which is scary because climate science isn't rocket science)

Jan 16, 2019
@anti, it seems to me that the schools do all they can. The problem is when the kids go home and get told it's all wrong.

This supports the multi-pronged approach the authors of this paper recommend.

Jan 16, 2019
the very first sentence in a paper shows how biased the authors are.
Consensus takes no real place in true science.


Science is said to have "reality bias", sadly for crackpots like you. Consensus has a prominent place in science - only overturned by new facts - but you would not know that.

I notice there is no science in this phys.org article,


Then you did not read it, since of course the publication described is referenced by name and DOI. But you would not read it, likely because there is no science in you (yet). You exemplify what aap discuss, a failure of schools, no reading comprehension (even less science comprehension).

For your own comfort, give it a rest, AGW is well tested and acknowledge science. If you want to change that, don't start with a falsehood, but do better research that can possibly (but not likely) replace a century of efforts from thousands of scientists from many areas (including pure climate science) who agree on the facts.

Jan 16, 2019
Just as the scientific community was reaching a consensus on the dangerous reality of climate change, the partisan divide on climate change began to widen.

That might seem like a paradox, but it's also no coincidence...

"Science" by democratic decree, LOL!

Jan 16, 2019
"Science is said to have "reality bias", sadly for crackpots like you. Consensus has a prominent place in science - only overturned by new facts - but you would not know that."

What a joke! Disagree with the crowd and you are called a denier and will probably lose your teaching position or be demoted.

This is a multi-trillion dollar industry and they do not want anybody tampering with it.

Jan 16, 2019
Whenever you see the words -- "science" and "consensus" in the same sentence, then the latter should be read as -- CON-SENSE-US.

Jan 16, 2019
Ultimately we have to get to the root of the problem, which is the huge imbalance in spending between climate change opponents and those lobbying for new solutions

Ahh yes, the problem is the alarmists aren't getting enough funding. As if a nearly 4-1 ratio wasn't good enough for them.
https://www.clima...irators/
https://www.clima...armists/

Jan 17, 2019
I suppose we should also discuss the money that the IPCC is trying to scrounge up each year. From the Katowice Texts:
the commitment of developed country Parties to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020

So who is going to pay this $100B a year? The taxpayers of "developed countries".

This isn't even accounting for the more than $160B already spent by the US government alone.

Jan 17, 2019
So, nobody wants to discuss the financial misinformation, shocking...

Jan 17, 2019
Ahh yes, the problem is the alarmists aren't getting enough funding. As if a nearly 4-1 ratio wasn't good enough for them.


Ahh yes, climatedollars.org, created and run by Capital Research Center (CRC).

"CRC has received millions of dollars from conservative philanthropists over the years, with a total budget in 2009 of $1.4 million.[8] Donors have included foundations run by the Koch family, the Scaifes, and the Bradleys. As of 2005, CRC had received $115,000 from ExxonMobil.[9]" . . . "CRC has been highly critical of animal rights activists and the environmental movement." . . . "The CRC said Al Gore's campaign to control carbon emissions is motivated by the likelihood that he will make an "immense fortune" if laws are passed to control them;[12] argues that organized labor is bad for America;[13] and has criticized government efforts to weaken intellectual property protection of prescription medications." -wikipedia

Golly, no agenda there! /s

Jan 17, 2019
So instead of discussing their research, you would rather resort to slander. They've made their data available, which is more than can be said for the alarmist Brulle

Golly, no agenda there


Jan 17, 2019
you would rather resort to slander


If you think what I posted is slander, you don't know slander.
Slander is the action or crime of making a false spoken statement

Nothing in my post is even remotely slander. Nor is it libel (which applies to written material- guess you didn't know the difference).

As for a discussion with you, the CRC work is systematically biased towards the fossil fuel industry, so there's really not much to discuss. Just like you probably wouldn't think there's much to discuss in any of this work: http://priceofoil...reports/

As for Brulle's data, it's here: https://static-co...ESM.docx

Jan 17, 2019
You made a false statement (slander/libel whatever) by basically saying their only interest is propping up big oil/conservatives. The point of the study was to investigate Brulle's claims.

I'm not going to dig through the "price of oil" reports, if you have something specific to discuss share it otherwise yea we need to move on from fossil fuels, duh.

As for Brulle's data

That's not Brulle's original study, this is (surprise it's behind a paywall):
https://link.spri...3-1018-7

The "supplemental data" you shared is laughable, renewable energy lobby is listed as "misc energy", and the "other" category accounts for 30% of the expenditures, but isn't included in figures since they didn't fall into "any one of the major categories".

I don't care who's throwing around money for what, everyone is getting paid, at the expense of the taxpayer, and that's my concern.

Jan 17, 2019
It's amusing that the cranks don't know the difference between libel and slander, and even more amusing that they think either one is a "crime." It's not; it's a tort under British and US law.

Jan 17, 2019
It's amusing that the cranks don't know the difference between libel and slander, and even more amusing that they think either one is a "crime." It's not; it's a tort under British and US law.

It's no surprise though, the people who are so easily triggered here are usually shooting from the hip (and hitting their feet). ; )

Jan 17, 2019
... either one is a "crime." It's not; it's a tort under British and US law
not quite, and both are defamation

to clarify: "There are no criminal defamation laws at the federal level in the United States" - https://cpj.org/r...rica.php

"However, on the state level, 23 states and 2 territories have criminal defamation laws on the books, along with 1 state (Iowa) establishing defamation/libel as a criminal offense through case law (without statutorily defined crime): Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands" legal references linked here - https://en.wikipe...d_States

state laws are limited by the Constitution and just rarely enforced

Jan 19, 2019
Da Schneib, there are sections of Canada's Criminal Code that deal with both slander and libel. It's usually a civil court issue, of course.

Jan 19, 2019
Wow, who knew?

What's the applicability, @Bane? What sort of things would you have to say or write about whom?

Just curious.

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