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Could Scientists on Social Media Help Combat Disinformation?

JANMARIS PEREZ, Host: Over the last few weeks, conspiracy theories about coronavirus have gone viral online, and experts have described the spread of disinformation as an “infodemic.” But as disinformation is on the rise, a movement to make scientific research more accessible to the general public is gaining momentum. Lauren Peace reports:

LAUREN PEACE (BYLINE): Samantha Yammine is a scientist with a PhD and background in stem cell research.

She’s also somewhat of a social media star with 10s of thousands of followers. Here she is in an instagram video:

INSTAGRAM AUDIO: According to my local news station and a bunch of other news outlets, #SARSCOV2 can live for hours in the air. I've been reading about this thing for months and I've never heard anything like that... So I looked into it! It was based off one single study (sigh). Oh my gosh….

PEACE: Yammine, who’s known online as Science Sam, says one study is a good start, but not enough to really say anything definitive.

She’s part of a growing number of scientists and doctors now using social media to break down complex data and research for her followers. She wants people to engage with complicated ideas, and ask questions about things they don’t understand..

YAMMINE: I hope it changes the way that we talk about science, and the way that we ask people to implement science in their lives! One silver lining coming out of this is I'm noticing a lot of new people reaching out to me and saying, like, Hey, you know, I'm just really confused. You seem nice. Can you help me? What should I What should I be reading?

PEACE: Dustin Duncan is an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. He agrees that there’s increased need for scientists to be able to communicate with the public.

But he says that communication needs to extend beyond the internet…

DUNCAN: There's a large swath of people who have, who don't necessarily have internet access. There are literacy issues, health literacy issues.

Duncan says he expects that researchers will study this moment for years to come, trying to understand the best way to communicate in future public health crises.

Lauren Peace, Columbia Radio News.


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