Science communication has a problem, which won’t be solved with MORE communication:
It reaches the “wrong” people.
Why is that so?
When it comes to publicly controversial topics like GMOs, climate change and medicine, science communication is mostly by and for people with scientific literacy, creating some kind of echo-chamber.
We do so in writing blogs, commenting in forums or writing about our research.
But the large majority doesn’t get in contact with most of this work.
For example as a result, many people know little about GMOs, still they have a more or less strong opinion about them.
Knowing so less, makes people increasingly vulnerable to fall for misinformation.
With so much differing opinion, a reasonable public discourse is nearly impossible. With GMOs we are approaching our 20th anniversary.
If the science behind those topics cannot be communicated to the majority of the people, fear-mongering and misinformation will persist and make the public split in opinions even worse.
But why don’t many people know about the science?
Regardless of the amount of scientific literacy in a person, the first touchpoint with science for everyone is an article or some editorial piece on a scientific topic.
So what do people have to do, who want to know more about the credibility/claims/sources/science in an article?
They immediately have to step into the realm of scientific literate people.
This means they have to dissect the content, evaluate the claims, research sources etc etc.
Not only does that cost time, but also needs a lot of know-how. And we all know, to endure the work of double-checking a lot of interest for the topic is needed as well.(because tbh: it can be a real pain in the ass)
So many people either just don’t even start reading or drop out after reading an article, aware of all the work necessary to understand the science behind it.
What science communication has to manage is fuelling the curiosity of the people on their journey from the first article to the actual science.
Good teachers feed knowledge bit by bit, keeping curiosity for the next step high along the way, while working further into complexity.
“The idea is that to engage students in a new topic you should start by highlighting some things they already know. An earth-science teacher might ask her students to bring in pictures of an earthquake’s devastation, as a way of leading up to a discussion of plate tectonics.”
Chip Heath in the book “Made to Stick.”
So how could we replace those “?” boxes with information interesting enough so that more people drop out later on the journey to science? (Ultimately leading to more and better informed people)
And that is where my project WorldBrain — Verifying the Internet with Science comes in.
On WorldBrain, people get the facts of science related articles they read checked — with just one click.
Made possible through a community, which collects and verifies web-content for controversial issues like GMOs, climate change or vaccinations (etc.)
But getting facts checked that easily is only the starting point of the journey to the science behind a topic.
Like I said before, a good teacher starts with something a person already knows and then brings up relevant information to reach the next step, fuelling new curiosity over and over again — until the educational goal is reached.
The WorldBrain platform gradually leads readers of an article into the science behind it.
It all starts with the first information people have — an article they just read.
The substance of the initial curiosity is the question:
“Is this article credible or not?”
This is answered with the first part of the WorldBrain platform, the REPOSITORY FOR FACT-CHECKED ARTICLES
For that we practically use a subreddit, it delivers everything needed for a first beta version (and even more).
- With the search bar people can easily search for an article via the link and see if it is already verified. (SEE TEST ARTICLE)
- And via the tags reddit provides, there is an easy way to make the credibility visible.
- It has a strong API, which makes interaction with every data point possible. An ideal database.
So now that the first question is answered, but raises another question — adding new curiosity:
“Why does this article have such an evaluation?”
To satisfy the desire for more explanation, people can use THE COMMENT SECTION to go into more detail about the overall verification rating.
There every claim is extracted as a single comment and verified for accuracy.
But after this question has been answered, there is a new one arising:
“Why does this claim have such an evaluation?”
If the curiosity is still high at this point and the readers want to know more about the evaluation of a claim, they can jump to the second part of the WorldBrain platform — directly linked to the claims to support the verification.
A collection of the most used arguments in controversial debates, transparently fact-checked, easy to understand for people without scientific background and short enough to act as a jumping board for further research — into science.
Do you see what happened here?
The reader of an article is given the opportunity to go deeper and deeper into a scientific topic, even without necessarily investing lots of time for evaluation and/or having scientific literacy.
The first time the reader has to really start working “scientifically” is when he leaves the Knowledge Base to investigate the sources (actual papers etc).
With giving the people what they need to serve their curiosity along the way, we can reduce the fraction of people jumping off on the way to science.
And even if readers are satisfied with only knowing the credibility of an article, a good thing is still happening— people would start rejecting bad articles.
Besides that, every step further they willingly take is already a success for better science understanding in the public.
…in order to make those verifications rock solid, there are many perspectives necessary!
Right! That is why I am looking for people who would like to be part of the community.
Don’t let your hard(!) work of fact-checking and comment- editing be lost in the slurp of time.
How many people do you think are reading your well researched and written comments under an in a thread in a 2000k facebook group, populated with another 100 comments? 50? 100?
I am amazed how much valuable information is inside those threads -over and over again.
Let’s not have your hard(!) work drowned in other comments and/or eventually forgotten over time, because it is so hard to (re)find.
We just have to do what we do all the time in all those forums and threads — comment, evaluate and dissect.
With WorldBrain we will be able to pool our work and create content that lasts, is visible and reusable to tens of thousands of people.(in the worst case) — helping to close the Knowledge Gap and make a reasonable public discourse possible.
Start contributing today!
Time investment? As you wish: From occasional commenting to editor of articles.
Topic? The first focus topic: GMOs.
Skills? You have been into GMOs for a while, commenting on various threads is a passion for you and/or you are blog editor in the topic.
The rest is iteration and learning — we’ll get to perfection :)
The platform is ready for content — let’s get it on!
I’ll add more and more and wait for you :)
Contact me or share this article with friends, who are potentially interested — let’s make WorldBrain awesome together!