Internet commentators love to shout their opinions, but new research shows that the loudest might not know what they’re talking about. Jacob Groshek, a Boston University College of Communication (COM) assistant professor of emerging media studies, researches online communication and social media. In a June 2016 essay in The Conversation, Groshek wrote about how online discussion can distort facts and disrupt science communication. Specifically, tracking how information about antimicrobial resistance spreads online, Groshek and collaborators James Katz, Feld Professor of Emerging Media at COM, and Kevin Outterson, a BU professor of law, as well as graduate students from the Emerging Media Studies program, found that those who posted about science most online were likely to be the most misinformed.
BU Research asked Groshek how scientists and citizens might be able to combat the troubling spread of science misinformation on social media.
BU Research: Your article in The Conversation discusses how information about science—for example, antimicrobial resistance—spreads on social media. How did you get interested in that topic?
Groshek: Our question there was: what do people know about antimicrobial resistance—AMR—and are there some factors that help explain why some people know more and some people know less? We were particularly interested in social media and the way that using it related positively or negatively to knowledge, and also behavior. Were people reporting using antibiotics in an appropriate or recommended fashion? The idea was not to get into the debates but rather to talk about the experience of how people are communicating science in an online media environment that can at times be contentious. At some times, it can be a little overwhelming as to what really are the facts. AMR is one topic in a larger field of study where we’re trying to push forward a bit more.
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