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Spiro, West, and Co-authors Publish on Science Communication During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted: 10/12/2023 (CSDE Research)

CSDE Affiliates Emma Spiro and Jevin West from the Information School recently published their research with co-authors, “Selective and deceptive citation in the construction of dueling consensuses” in the Science Advances. The COVID-19 pandemic provides a unique opportunity to study science communication and, in particular, the transmission of consensus. In this study, authors show how “science communicators,” writ large to include both mainstream science journalists and practiced conspiracy theorists, transform scientific evidence into two dueling consensuses using the effectiveness of masks as a case study. They do this by compiling one of the largest, hand-coded citation datasets of cross-medium science communication, derived from 5 million Twitter posts of people discussing masks. They find that science communicators selectively uplift certain published works while denigrating others to create bodies of evidence that support and oppose masks, respectively. Anti-mask communicators in particular often use selective and deceptive quotation of scientific work and criticize opposing science more than pro-mask communicators. Their findings have implications for scientists, science communicators, and scientific publishers, whose systems of sharing (and correcting) knowledge are highly vulnerable to what we term adversarial science communication.

*This CSDE news story is a corrected repost of a story that ran in the Oct. 2nd newsletter. CSDE Affiliate Emma Spiro is an author on the featured article.

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