The Power of Social Media over Bad Science
Can the common folk change their destiny by openly discussing science (good or bad science, even those that are just mimicking research)? Recently, on Twitter in particular, scientific debates are daily. Some of these debates can become less than cordial, but, on average, the ugly and the constructive sort of balance out. Often the constructive wins. Here is the latest example: an article originally published by The Lancet that received a nasty treatment from many online discussions—including from me, see here, here, and here.
A new correspondence to the January 2019 Eat Lancet article published on the 25th of November 2019. The correspondence is very interesting; it shows how much power people have using social media. Here is a quote from the paper:
“Scientists and journals face serious challenges in a rapidly changing media landscape that is susceptible to the intentional dissemination of misleading content.2 Health communication campaigns are clearly susceptible to polarisation, so-called content pollution, and disinformation.3, 4
Scientists and scientific outlets such as The Lancet need to be continuously aware of, and act proactively, to avoid manipulation and misinformation about issues of fundamental importance for human health and the planet.” (see here)
Well I’ll be darn if this is not great news!
While the authors published this article to point out the huge negative power of information (they call misinformation) that is available to the general public, and which can doom good or bad science, note what it means to the general public: the public can doom any science if they see it is full of bogus information. The research they conducted shows just how much power we have! So let’s use it from now on for all research appearing in publications! Let us look and see the merit—or lack thereof—of any research paper published and let us chew the bad ones apart publicly so that those without a biology degree can understand what not to follow!
Finally! We The People!
We have the power to destroy the reputation of the science that is bad science (and scientist(s)) and point out the problems with the research as well as with the researcher(s). And even if that bad science will not change in the paper—meaning no retraction—the people change as a result of the new understanding they receive. People get educated over time and learn to see through bad science.
And even if they don’t understand why it is “bad science”, they read the articles and comments we or some other social media may write. For example, the article that appeared in the Independent, a UK-based news, which you can see here. Or if you have outlived your free-reading welcome there, then read it here.
We are tired and downright annoyed at the same old science for the past 50+ years that already got us obese and sick. We will no longer listen to carefully formulated bad science.
The People & Social Media
There are millions of people all over the world who dropped old science and their doctors cold turkey and moved to self-cure themselves. And they are succeeding without—I should say in spite of—their doctors and nutritionists.
We all are tired of scientists publishing with interest group supporting whatever their agenda, which covers their research expense and also brings money into their pockets. Note that “VG is Deputy Director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), Stockholm University. SRC is scientific partner to the EAT Foundation” (included in The Lancet correspondence) is one of the authors of the article on social media influence, complaining about its power. The interest group is listed with his association. The original article he is supporting, the Eat Lancet article by Willett et al., see here, had many authors with financial conflicts of interests, including him.
Thank you for this research finding David Garcia, Victor Galaz, and Stefan Daume. It makes me extremely happy to see how our power increased over yours!
Comments are welcome, as always, and are moderated for appropriateness