Unlike the speakers in the pseudoscience session earlier those in the ‘mythbusting’ session thought journalists should borrow some of the tools of scientific inquiry in their quests to reveal the truth behind the myth peddlers.
If assistant professor of physics at the American University of Cairo, Alaa Ibrahim, is to be believed, 95 per cent of science absorbed by the average person is gained through informal means, so journalists bear a huge responsibility to use whatever means they can to communicate sound science to the public.
Here are ten tips on mythbusting:
- Speak up – say it is nonsense when it is.
- Inform yourself of scientific terminology. What are the placebo effect and the double-blind test? What are the stages of clinical trials? The charitable trust Sense about Science has a number of published resources available.
- Peer review your journalism.
- Use the scientific method to gather evidence. Voice of Young Science conducted extensive interviews to successfully debunk bogus claims around ‘detox’.
- Think critically. Even scientists can have vested interests.
- Take advantage of published research and science news alerts. Elsevier offers access to online journals for accredited journalists.
- Take your time to investigate.
- Make use of respected figures in the community who can echo informed choices.
- Empower your audience by educating them on methods of critical thinking.
- Accept uncertainty, all science does not need to be portrayed as pure fact.
Smriti Mallapaty, SciDev.Net contributor, Nepal/London