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Advancing the Science and Practice of Science Communication:
Misinformation About Science in the Public Sphere

Organized by: May Berenbaum, Dietram Scheufele, William K. Hallman, Andrew Hoffman, Liz Neeley and Czerne M. Reid

Misinformation about science in the public sphere is of great concern to scientists and to those who seek to communicate and support use of science in public debate and decision-making. Participants in the proposed colloquium examined the growing body of research on the factors that make people more or less likely to accept incorrect information promulgated in the complex science communication environments of news media, social media, and other channels.  Lessons were gathered from a wide range of professions and fields to gain insight into the practices and infrastructure that may reduce the spread and impact of misinformation about science. Throughout the program, and in small groups on the second day, participants contemplated the ways that science communicators, individual researchers, the scientific community, and other organizations may work together to apply the research and test practices for addressing misinformation about science.

This Colloquium was designed for: 

  • individuals and organizations engaged in the communication of science from a variety of vantage points and settings such as universities, think tanks, philanthropy, for-profit research organizations, scientific societies/professional associations, journalism, social/digital media platforms, informal science education, health professions, non-profit organizations and government agencies
  • researchers in diverse disciplines that study science communication and related processes
  • providers of science communication education and training in higher education and other settings.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Introductory Remarks and Plenary Speaker \ The Landscape of Mis(dis)information about Science
Beckman Center - Auditorium

Dietram Scheufele, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dietram Scheufele will introduce four themes of the colloquium: the need to clarify goals for communicating science, to identify theory-based and practice-informed hypotheses for evaluating approaches to communicating, to develop metrics for assessing effectiveness; and to create partnerships for generating the needed evidence.

The Landscape of Mis(dis)information about Science
Michael Cacciatore, University of Georgia

Panel 1. What We Know and Need to Know about Misinformation: Perspectives from Research and Practice
Moderator: William K. Hallman

(Mis)informed about What? What Citizens Most Need to Know about Science and Scientific Information
Dominique Brossard, University of Wisconsin

The Science Behind Practices for Correcting Misinformation
Brendan Nyhan, University of Michigan

Infrastructure and Systems for Reducing the Spread and Impact of Misinformation
David Lazer, Northeastern University

Reaching Diverse Audiences
Vish Viswanath, Harvard University

Trusted Sources: Curating the Best Available Information from Science
Laura Helmuth, The Washington Post

Connecting Audiences with Evidence through Participation
Judith Cox, World Science Festival

Panel 2. Misinformation in the Context of Public Controversy
Moderator: Andrew Hoffman

Science and Controversy: Ability and Motivation of Citizens to Work Around Misinformation
Sara K. Yeo, University of Utah

Defining and Achieving Science Communication Goals in an Era of Virally Disseminated Nonsense
William K. Hallman, Rutgers University

When Science Threatens Values and Beliefs: Challenges in Public Health 
Katherine Lyon Daniel, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How Does Evolving Information about Food, Nutrition, and Health Affect the Credibility of Science?
Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, Rutgers University 

Panel 3. Connecting Facts to What People Already Know (or Think They Know): Storytelling and Narrati
Moderator: Liz Neeley

Science of Storytelling; Storytelling of Science
Michael Dahlstrom, Iowa State University & Marty Kaplan, University of Southern California

Communicating the Gist: Misinformation, Memory, and Meaning
Valerie Reyna, Cornell University

Telling Stories to Change Misconceptions About Scientists
Monica Feliu-Mojer, Ciencia Puerto Rico and iBiology

Narrative at the Bedside and in the Clinic
Johanna Shapiro, University of California, Irvine

Science as an (Entertaining) Story
Elliot Kirschner, iBiology

Session: Our Most Pressing Problems: How Research and Practice Partnerships can Help
Moderator: Czerne M. Reid

RPPs: A New Cultural Model for Tackling Intransigent Challenges in Education, Health, and Science Communication
Bronwyn Bevan, University of Washington

Strengthening the Science of Vaccine Communication: Lessons Learned from a Research-Practice Partnership 
Brendan Nyhan, University of Michigan Christine Finley, Vermont Department of Health

Distinctive Voices Public Lecture

The Rise of Misinformation in and about Science
Jevin West, University of Washington

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Panel 4. The Future of (Trusted) Information: Lessons from Related Fields
Moderator: Dietram Scheufele

A Data-Driven View of the Information Ecosystem: Real News, Fake News, and No News at All
Duncan Watts, Microsoft, Inc.

Knowing What’s Good for Us: Lessons from Health Communication, Public Health, and Social Marketing to Address Health Inequities
Itzhak Yanovitsky, Rutgers University

Capitalizing on Opportunities of an Online World
Christie Aschwanden, FiveThirtyEight

Misinformation and the Limits of Science: An Industrial Perspective
Anne Wallin, Dow Chemical (ret)

Small Group Sessions on Priorities for Practice and Research
No videos are available of the small group sessions

These sessions facilitated exchanges between researchers, practitioners, and philanthropic organizations organized in advance into small groups with shared interests in topics listed below.

  • Critical issues in reaching diverse populations 
  • Social media and the Internet: Human and technical dimensions of addressing misinformation online
  • Elements of successful researcher-practitioner partnerships and discourse
  • The role of scientists and the scientific enterprise in addressing misinformation about science
  • The role of journalists and news media in addressing misinformation about science. 
  • The role of education and informal science learning in addressing misinformation about science
  • Perceptions of uncertainty and risk
  • Effective public deliberation on important societal issues that involve science
  • The role of government and policymakers in addressing or perpetuating misinformation about science

Moderators will focus small group discussion on the following themes as appropriate to each small group theme:

  1. Key problems related to misinformation about science in different communication contexts 
  2. Ideas for testing theory and promising practices to achieve various communication goals related to misinformation.
  3. Ideas for improving the ability to monitor, detect, and counteract scientific misinformation, and ways that these could be advanced through research and practice.
  4. Support or infrastructures that are currently unavailable that the standing committee should think about to move research and practice in this area forward.


Panel 5. Lessons from Scalable Approaches
Moderator: May Berenbaum

Project Healthy Minds
Phillip Schermer, Project Healthy Minds

Curating Scientific Expertise for Delivery on Deadline
SciLine, Rick Weiss, AAAS

Scaling up in communities through informal science education networks and ecosystems
Kirsten M. Ellenbogen, Great Lakes Science Center

How to Succeed at Making STEM Videos 
Nsikan Akpan, PBS NewsHour

Panel 6. Major Initiatives on Misinformation and the Implications for Communicating About Science
Moderator: Elizabeth Christopherson

Michael D. Rich, CEO, RAND

Cong Yu, Google

Michael Dimock, President, Pew Research Center

Vanessa Boudewyns , RTI International


The National Academy of Sciences gratefully acknowledges the support of the following co-sponsors for this colloquium:


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