Assessing the validity of online scientific information

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As part of the series “How do we make information”, the result of a collaboration between Agence Science-Presse and École branchée, we are now interested in the validity of scientific information. in the context of a global pandemic as we are currently living. Can you verify information that is based on science if you are not yourself a scientist? The answer is in this guide!

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The main activities aim to:

Discipline(s)/Subject(s):

As part of the series “How do we make information”, the result of a collaboration between Agence Science-Presse and École branchée, we are now interested in the validity of scientific information. in the context of the global pandemic we are currently experiencing.

Il va sans dire qu’une surabondance d’information envahit les différents médias sociaux et qu’il est souvent difficile de s’y retrouver clairement. Vous avez peut-être vu passer des articles qui relataient que boire de l’eau aux 15 minutes pouvait guérir la COVID-19, que le fait de retenir son souffle aiderait à détecter la présence du virus, que ce sont des scientifiques qui ont créé la COVID-19 en laboratoire, ou bien que la technologie 5G était un propagateur du nouveau coronavirus… Plusieurs exemples de ce genre sont repris et réfutés par the Décrypteurs de Radio-Canada or the rumor detector from the Agence Science-Presse.

The number of false scientific information has completely exploded during the pandemic and, according to the World Health Organization, we are also living in an infodemic (formed from the fusion of the words "information" and "epidemic") which is intended to be an unprecedented phenomenon of the spread of information of all kinds concerning COVID-19.

“A single article or report is not going to change the face of the epidemic, but when the same information is taken up and repeated, it generates a narrative. This is how, for example, scientific studies can be misunderstood at the beginning and then, by dint of being disseminated in a truncated manner, generate a received idea (this is the case for the coronavirus mutation, which has often been poorly presented). However, each misconception, each false information, each fallacious speech represents an additional risk for human lives - and for the nursing staff, too often erased from the equation - by misleading or quite simply adding vagueness to the situation. "

Numerama, October 28, 2020

You can download this infographic from Agence Science-Presse to help your students assess the validity of scientific information they may see on their social networks.

They can also have access to a small video clip below which explains to them what the infodemic is and which helps them, thanks to three simple steps, to disentangle the true from the false:


SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES

At the end of these activities, the student will be able to assess the credibility of scientific information.

Disciplines and levels targeted

-French (2nd cycle of secondary)
Read and enjoy a variety of texts

  • Make a critical judgment: take a step back from the text by relying on cultural and media references which confirm the credibility or admissibility of a source or information.

-ECR (1st cycle of secondary)
Theme: autonomy

  • Conditions of autonomy: critical judgment, common sense, moral responsibility, the ability to choose, authenticity, etc.

Suggested digital tools

  • Create a Concept Map: Popplet
  • Make a "meme": Canva
  • Record a podcast: Anchor

Objectives of the activities

  • In a concept map, distinguish reliable information from questionable information, taken from a scientific article.
  • Through the creation of “memes”, make a critical judgment regarding the reliability of different information.
  • Discuss, in a podcast, the different behaviors we can have in relation to what is seen or heard on the web.

☝️ Activity: Assess the validity of scientific information

We've heard a lot about fake news in politics in recent years. But statistics show that fake news in health and nutrition is shared just as much, if not more, on the web and on social media. And yet, behind this fake news, there is usually science... or at least, that's what those who spread it claim!

Can you verify information based on science if you are not a scientist yourself? Yes, there are some basic checks you can do, some easy questions you can ask, whether it's a statement from a youtuber, a news report, or even a statement from a scientist.

On the menu of this activity sheet:

  • Exercise 1: Read this excerpt from an article and identify reliable and unreliable (or questionable) information
  • Exercise 2: You read 4 articles that each contain 3 key pieces of information. Which of these articles would you share on social media and why?
  • Exercise 3: Observe your behaviors when you click on a text or video that talks about science or health. Do you: (...)

🔎 ABOUT THIS SPECIAL SERIES

Through eight pedagogical sheets, students will be put in the shoes of a journalist and carry out activities specially created to enlighten them on various facets of news production in the age of social networks. 

The design of the various educational sheets was made possible thanks to the collaboration between theScience-Press Agency and École branchée. Each sheet contains a theoretical part on a specific subject relating to the production of information, in addition to activities that tend to develop various disciplinary and digital skills in the student.

Check out the other guides in this special feature:

Sheet #1: Information vs opinion

Sheet #2: How to recognize a reliable news site

Sheet #3: Journalistic sources

Sheet #4: Confirmation bias

Sheet #5: How to recognize hidden advertising

Sheet #6: News media

Sheet #8: Disinformation

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Designed to fill short periods or inspire larger projects, the activities offered in the SCOOP! allow the teacher to approach the subject matter in the program in addition to developing the information literacy and digital skills of the students.

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