863   Roundtable discussion

Communicating the dangers of pseudoscience: a global challenge

Bad science and pseudoscientific claims affect us all, and even more so when they are miscommunicated to the public. Often, communication of science worldwide is particularly focused on the beauty of science and technology. While we all agree this work is of utmost importance, the speakers in this session have been working in a different field of science communication, aimed at the promotion of critical and rational thinking, the questioning of extreme claims, and why the epistemic authority of science should be taken into account. 

Our goal is to provide the public with the appropriate tools to make science-based decisions in their daily lives. Decisions such as whether to vaccinate your children, whether to turn to homeopathy to cure your illness,  whether nuclear energy is something to be afraid of, are all deeply influenced by how people understand scientific thinking and the scientific method. 

Our work in each of our own countries provides important insights into how to communicate the process of science, rather than just the results, and how we come to scientific consensus. Michael Marshall has successfully raised public awareness about the dangers of alternative medicine in the UK, working together with national press, and leading to changes in public policy; Angela Bearth has conducted many surveys on how risk communication directs consumer behavior; Natalia Pasternak has launched an Institute in Brazil to promote science-based public policies, and has conducted the first national survey on the understanding of alternative medicine; and Ray Hall has measured how to communicate unwarranted beliefs with college students in the US. 

At this roundtable, we will share our experiences and talk about the challenges of communicating bad science and pseudoscience in a global perspective, as well as providing tools for science communicators on how to address these sensitive issues in the media.

Author: Natalia Pasternak
Institute Question of Science; University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Speaker: Michael Marshall
Good Thinking Society, United Kingdom

Michael Marshall is the project director of the Good Thinking Society (UK), a charity organization that promotes science-based medicine and rational thinking. His efforts in raising public awareness on alternative medicine have greatly contributed to the fall of public-funded homeopathy in the UK. He has also worked intensively with national and local media outlets, resulting in solid skeptical stories and investigations that Good Thinking either conducted in partnership with the UK media, or undertook and gave to the media to publish, or in some cases were the source of scientific comment and opinion on. He will share his expertise in communicating directly with lay people, stakeholders, policy makers and journalists (https://goodthinkingsociety.org/about/good-thinking-media-coverage/)

Speaker: Angela Bearth
ETH, Institute for Environmental Decisions, Zürich, Switzerland

Dr Bearth is a senior researcher and professor at the Health Sciences and Technology department at the Institute of Environmental Decisions in Zurich, Switzerland. Her main interests lie within the research fields of risk perception and communication, health psychology, behaviour change and consumer behaviour. Some of her current projects and research interests: - Intuitive Toxicology 2.0: Investigating and comparing consumers' risk perceptions and experts' risk judgment related to toxicology and chemical substances - The influence of ambiguity in security measures in public spaces - Motives for direct-to-consumer genetic testing and the perception of the results regarding personal health Her latest publication was a survey on how europeans perceive risk in toxicology: Lay-people's knowledge about toxicology and its principles in eight European countries. She will address chemoaphobia and the importance of science communication to counteract fear mongering and fake news.

Speaker: Raymond Hall
California State University, Fresno, United States

Raymond Edward Hall is a professor in the Department of Physics at California State University, Fresno, where for more than fifteen years he has developed and taught courses in engineering physics, quantum mechanics, and other scientific topics. He is also a member of Centre for Inquiry (CFI) in the US, a hub for the promotion of rational thinking and skepticism. He has co-authored a paper on Effect of Critical Thinking Education on Epistemically Unwarranted Beliefs in College Students (Dyer and Hall, 2018). He will bring his experience in teaching critical thinking and rational skepticism based on published research and experience of 19 years teaching multiple sections of general education critical thinking at a California public university.

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