Joe Hanson on Crap-Detecting Science News

Joe Hanson, host of It’s OK To Be Smart, posted this useful video. Please view it before claiming that your next article, book, blog post, or presentation is “based on science.”

Joe cautions us to watch out for:

  • Headlines that consist of a question.
  • Headlines that include quotation marks.
  • Words that reveal uncertainty, such as link, association, correlation, suggest, and baffled.
  • The word breakthrough: True breakthroughs are rare.
  • The word controversial: Controversy does not always mean accuracy.
  • Articles that reinforce stereotypes.
  • Articles that appear on sites with lots of advertising: You could be reading “churnalism” or “click bait.”

In addition:

  • Distinguish between press releases (marketing material) and good journalism (fact-checked and balanced).
  • Read to find out if the article was peer-reviewed and published — or simply presented at a conference.
  • Read closely to determine whether the reporter talked to the main researcher.
  • Remember that “shit flows uphill”: misinformation spreads like wildfire, especially online.
  • Don’t claim that science “proves” anything: Findings are based on current data and can be revised when new data emerges.

Bottom line: Blend curiosity with skepticism. Keep an open mind — but so open that your brains fall out.

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