Big, If True Webinar: Science is Politics by Other Means

Big, If True Webinar: Science is Politics by Other Means

June 1, 2020

Friday, May 29, 2020 – In this episode of BIG, If True we’ll discuss the politicization of science and technology, looking closely at controversies about preprints, scientific articles posted to archives before they have been peer reviewed. In recent months, preprints have become a prefered way to get new findings into the hands of other scientists quickly, allowing researchers around the world to read new hypotheses and quell uncertainty. While archives for preprints offer access and expediency, they also jeopardize the peer review process, which often involves anonymous review by independent experts who surface methodological flaws, blind spots, and misleading claims. In our last episode, we spoke with Jane C. Hu, a science journalist, and @ASAPScience, popular Youtubers who cover science and tech, about the use of preprints in their fields. In situations where preprints are picked up by journalists, it can cause major confusion when speculative findings are treated as facts. 

In this episode, we explore whether the rigorous peer review process – a process that has traditionally safeguarded information quality control – can compete in a media ecosystem riddled with fast-paced health misinformation and dangerous speculation. This week’s panelists are Dr. Jeremy Faust, a physician and Editor-In-Chief of Brief19: A Daily Review of Covid-19 Research and Policy, Jasmine McNealy, PhD, an attorney and Professor at UFL who studies digital communication, and Irene Pasquetto, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of the HKS Misinformation Review. They will discuss the flurry of preprints and the limitations of correcting the record after an article has hit the mainstream. The panel will also offer insight into how scientific communities are wrestling with new uncertainties and heightened public visibility, while also forging new pathways for curating knowledge amidst the infodemic.

Jeremy S. Faust, MD is an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the division of health policy and public health and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. He is the medical editor-in-chief of ACEP Now, the monthly magazine of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Jeremy is the co-host of the award-winning medical education podcast, FOAMcast, as well as the editor-in-chief of Brief19, a daily roundup of COVID-19 research and policy. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Scientific American, and frequently in Slate. 

Jasmine McNealy, PhD is an attorney and an associate professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications where she is an affiliate of the STEM Translational Research Center and the UF Informatics institute. Her research focuses on privacy, online media, and communities. She is currently a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, an Affiliate of the Data & Society Research Institute, and was recently named Associate Director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project. 

Irene Pasquetto, PhD is a scholar in the field of information and communication studies. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), where she researches online disinformation. At HKS, Irene is the Chief Editor of a new academic publication, the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review. She is an incoming assistant professor at the School of Information at the University of Michigan. Irene earned a Ph.D. in Information Studies from UCLA, a M.A. in Media Studies and Journalism and a B.A. in Communication Studies from L’Università degli Studi di Verona (Italy).


Hosted by Joan Donovan, PhDBIG, If True is a seminar series presented by the Technology and Social Change Research Project (TaSC) at the Shorenstein Center.

Want to keep up with what TaSC is seeing week to week? Sign up for their newsletter, Meme War Weekly, and get fresh insights from the team straight to your inbox.

Dr. Donovan’s research specializes in Critical Internet Studies, Science and Technology Studies, and the Sociology of Social Movements. Dr. Donovan’s research and expertise has been showcased in a wide array of media outlets including NPR, Washington Post, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, ABC News, NBC News, Columbia Journalism Review, The Atlantic, Nature, and more.

The TaSC Project researches media manipulation, disinformation, political communication, and technology’s relationship to society. The research team is composed of subject matter experts, Brian Friedberg, an investigative ethnographer of online social worlds, Gabrielle Lim, a researcher of sociotechnical systems and information controls, and Rob Faris, co-author of Network Propaganda and researcher of large-scale media ecosystems. The TaSC Project aims to understand how media manipulation is a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. The project conducts research, develops methods, and facilitates workshops for journalists, policy makers, technologists, and civil society organizations on how to detect, document, and debunk media manipulation campaigns. The project is creating a research platform called the Media Manipulation Case Book, which will include 100 case studies to advance our knowledge of how misinformation travels across the web and platforms.