Breaking News
October 18, 2018 - Dietary fiber reduces brain inflammation during aging
October 18, 2018 - New tool could help prioritize recovery efforts for the poorest hit by natural disasters
October 18, 2018 - Hundreds of dietary supplements shown to contain unapproved drugs
October 18, 2018 - Active Pharmaceuticals ID’d in >700 Dietary Supplements
October 18, 2018 - Cell death protein also damps inflammation
October 18, 2018 - Health Highlights: Oct. 15, 2018
October 18, 2018 - Largest study of ‘post-treatment controllers’ reveals clues about HIV remission
October 18, 2018 - Bad Blood in Silicon Valley: A conversation with John Carreyrou
October 18, 2018 - ANTRUK’s Annual Lecture sends out message on shortage of funds for antibiotic research
October 18, 2018 - NAM special publication outlines steps to ensure interoperability of health care systems
October 18, 2018 - Novel method uses just a drop of blood to monitor effect of lung cancer therapy
October 18, 2018 - New blood test could spare cancer patients from unnecessary chemotherapy
October 18, 2018 - Training young researchers to work with data volumes arising in the health sector
October 18, 2018 - New Metrohm IC method is reliable and convenient to use for zinc oxide assay
October 18, 2018 - Global AIDS, TB fight needs more money: health fund
October 18, 2018 - Understanding the forces that cause sports concussions
October 18, 2018 - Research points to new target for treating periodontitis
October 18, 2018 - New tool improves assessment of postpartum depression symptoms
October 18, 2018 - From Biopsy to Diagnosis
October 18, 2018 - Sexual harassment and assault linked to worse physical/mental health among midlife women
October 18, 2018 - Stumped by medical school? A Q&A with a learning specialist
October 18, 2018 - Targeting immune checkpoints in microglia could reduce out-of-control neuroinflammation
October 18, 2018 - Study finds changes in antiepileptic drug metabolism during different trimesters of pregnancy
October 18, 2018 - Autonomic nervous system directly controls stem cell proliferation, study shows
October 18, 2018 - FDA Approves Talzenna (talazoparib) for gBRCAm HER2-Negative Locally Advanced or Metastatic Breast Cancer
October 18, 2018 - Sleeping Beauty technique helps identify genes responsible for NAFLD-associated liver cancer
October 18, 2018 - Many U.S. adults confused about primary care, study shows
October 18, 2018 - UC researcher focuses on light-mediated therapies to target breast cancer
October 18, 2018 - With philanthropic gifts, Stanford poised to make major advances in neurosciences | News Center
October 18, 2018 - Mice study shows antibiotics are not always necessary to cure sepsis
October 18, 2018 - Researchers discover why heart contractions are weaker in individuals with HCM
October 18, 2018 - Participation in organized sport during childhood may have long-term skeletal benefits
October 18, 2018 - Probiotic/antibiotic combination could eradicate drug-resistant bacteria
October 17, 2018 - More Socioeconomic Challenges for Hispanic Women With HIV
October 17, 2018 - 49,XXXXY syndrome – Genetics Home Reference
October 17, 2018 - Scientists uncover possible new causes of Tourette syndrome
October 17, 2018 - Girl undergoes unusual heart surgery after compassionate-use exemption | News Center
October 17, 2018 - Health Issues That Are Sometimes Mistaken for Gluten Sensitivity
October 17, 2018 - Elective induction of labor at 39 weeks may be beneficial option for women and their babies
October 17, 2018 - New smart watch algorithms can accurately monitor wearers’ sleep patterns
October 17, 2018 - Researchers demonstrate epigenetic memory transmission via sperm
October 17, 2018 - FDA, DHS announce memorandum of agreement to address cybersecurity in medical devices
October 17, 2018 - Health Tip: Know the Risks of Chicken Pox
October 17, 2018 - Immunotherapy effective against hereditary melanoma
October 17, 2018 - Researchers reveal new mechanism for how animal cells stay intact | News Center
October 17, 2018 - Alzheimer's Goes Under the Cryo-Electron Microscope
October 17, 2018 - Medicare for all? CMS chief warns program has enough problems already
October 17, 2018 - Metrohm Raman introduces Mira P handheld Raman system
October 17, 2018 - Expanding the knowledge about hippocampus to better understand cognitive deficits in MS
October 17, 2018 - Study of Nigerian breast cancer patients reveals prevalence of aggressive molecular features
October 17, 2018 - Many healthy children may have metabolic risk factors, finds study
October 17, 2018 - A new antibiotic could be a better, faster treatment for tuberculosis
October 17, 2018 - “I will not become a Robot Doctor”: A medical student vows to practice compassion
October 17, 2018 - Study findings may explain sporadic outbreaks of C. difficile infections in hospitals
October 17, 2018 - Purdue researchers develop new chemical process to find better drug ‘fits’ for patients
October 17, 2018 - Yale researchers develop way to attack RNA with small-molecule drugs
October 17, 2018 - New pragmatic study launched to understand the effectiveness of new type 2 diabetes drug
October 17, 2018 - Alnylam Announces Plan to Initiate Rolling Submission of a New Drug Application and Pursue Full Approval for Givosiran
October 17, 2018 - Nine cases of polio-like illness suspected in children in illinois
October 17, 2018 - Eisai enters into agreement with Eurofarma for development and sales of lorcaserin in 17 countries
October 17, 2018 - Patients once thought incurable can benefit from high-dose radiation therapy
October 17, 2018 - Researchers awarded grant to advance testing of experimental heroin vaccine
October 17, 2018 - Researchers examine SSRI use during pregnancy and major gestational malformations
October 17, 2018 - FDA grants Rare Pediatric Disease Designation for Immusoft’s Iduronicrin genleukocel-T
October 17, 2018 - Reliable Respiratory announces acquisition of Attleboro Area Medical Equipment
October 17, 2018 - Study reveals link between childhood abuse and higher arthritis risk in adulthood
October 17, 2018 - Research shows people over 65 are not performing enough physical activity
October 17, 2018 - FDA Approves Liletta (levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system) 52 mg to Prevent Pregnancy for up to Five Years
October 17, 2018 - Weight gain after smoking cessation linked to increased short-term diabetes risk
October 17, 2018 - Researchers find opportunity to control salt-sensitive hypertension without exercising
October 17, 2018 - Women not warned about cancer associated with breast implants
October 17, 2018 - Metrohm offers robust handheld Raman analyzer for Defense and Security
October 17, 2018 - Modeling Non-Numerical Data in Systems Biology
October 17, 2018 - Research aims to address health disparities in African-American men
October 17, 2018 - Human and cattle decoys trap outdoor-biting mosquitoes in malaria endemic regions
October 17, 2018 - High Circulating Prolactin Level Inversely Linked to T2DM Risk
October 17, 2018 - Study finds gene variant predisposes people to both Type 2 diabetes and low body weight
October 17, 2018 - Metrohm software products make it easy to comply with ALOCA and ALCOA+ guidelines
October 17, 2018 - Network of doctors identify the cause of 31 new conditions
October 17, 2018 - Notable improvement in brain cancer survival among younger patients but not much for elderly
A winning essayist’s tips for keeping track of scientific facts

A winning essayist’s tips for keeping track of scientific facts

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Facts and falsehoods coexist on the Internet with perplexing similarity. Could social media — where misinformation is too often spread — be a place to help build trust in science and the research enterprise? Debra Karhson, PhD, a Stanford postdoctoral scholar in psychiatry, thinks so.

Karhson explored a method for authenticating the social media profiles of communicators to help users identify sources of accurate scientific information. Her essay on the idea, “A verification vaccine for social contagion,” won second place in this year’s Lasker Essay Contest, presented by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation.

I recently caught up with Karhson to learn more about her winning ideas.

Where did the idea for your essay come from? What inspired you to write about this topic?

As a translational neuroscientist researching autism spectrum disorder, one of my primary challenges (especially in interpersonal conversations) is overcoming the wealth of false and information on the subject. Most of these conversations end with me enumerating the ways in which most individuals can identify trust-worthy sources of empirical (evidence-based) data, knowing very well that it is a task not always undertaken. This year’s prompt for the Lasker Essay Contest provided me with the opportunity to deeply research the technological advances in the digital dissemination of data and think about potential solutions accessible to both professional and personal audiences.

Like any engineering-trained scientist, I first wanted a firm understanding of the available data that explores the relationship between scientists and public trust. My literature review started with reports from the Pew Research Center, which was an extraordinary resource on this particular topic. In parallel, because I am categorized as a millennial, I wanted to understand the social media tools already available for authentication (e.g., the Twitter verification badge) as well as their critiques. The blue badge of verification is as iconic as the floppy disk ‘save’ button, but can’t be used for the purposes of scientific reliability.

Finally, I was interested in comparing and contrasting both sets of knowledge with information on the digital advances in “trust technology” trending on aggregators like Wired, TechCrunch, and MIT Technology Review. Once I had all of that information, the challenges (and potential solutions) facing translation of ‘hard’ data to public discourse became readily apparent. The combination of a visual cue with the transparency of blockchain seemed like the most elegant and favorable idea.

What’s important to you about how science is communicated in the general population?

Much like a yawn or laugh can rapidly spread through a crowd, social media is the perfect vector for the spread of information swiftly. Yet, the task of examining the veracity of information has not advanced as quickly nor become any easier. So, while the general public has access to more information, deciphering what is fact has also become more difficult.

The most amazing things in research occur within the details and they can be so easily missed when science data are communicated poorly or ineptly. Particularly, in the case of autism spectrum disorder, where the basic biology remains unclear, the clear communication of what is known as well as new breakthroughs are often muted amongst over-amplified misinformation.

Do you have other ideas for how the lay population can verify the reliability of scientific information on social media?

When I consider the reliability of scientific information, the top two items I examine in any piece of information I encounter are: the source type (i.e., primary or secondary) and the date. With my training as a scientist, I prefer to read the primary source information for myself, starting with the most current available. Primary sources provide direct or firsthand evidence while secondary sources, as described here, “describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process” the information from primary sources. This strategy of examining the type of source and the date usually helps to minimize the amount of author bias, clarifies the authority, and often provides a direct line of communication to an author on the paper (e.g., the corresponding author).

Photo by rawpixel.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles