Reducing Health Misinformation in Science: A Call to Arms

AuthorDavid Lazer,Briony Swire-Thompson
Published date01 March 2022
Date01 March 2022
Subject MatterMisinformation
124 ANNALS, AAPSS, 700, March 2022
DOI: 10.1177/00027162221087686
in Science:
A Call to Arms
1087686ANN The Annals Of The American AcademyReducing Health Misinformation In Science
The public often turns to science for accurate health
information, which, in an ideal world, would be error
free. However, limitations of scientific institutions and
scientific processes can sometimes amplify misinforma-
tion and disinformation. The current review examines
four mechanisms through which this occurs: (1) preda-
tory journals that accept publications for monetary gain
but do not engage in rigorous peer review; (2) pseudo-
scientists who provide scientific-sounding information
but whose advice is inaccurate, unfalsifiable, or incon-
sistent with the scientific method; (3) occasions when
legitimate scientists spread misinformation or disinfor-
mation; and (4) miscommunication of science by the
media and other communicators. We characterize this
article as a “call to arms,” given the urgent need for the
scientific information ecosystem to improve.
Improvements are necessary to maintain the public’s
trust in science, foster robust discourse, and encourage
a well-educated citizenry.
Keywords: misinformation; predatory journals; pseu-
doscience; scientific fraud; health
Science is the only institution where public
confidence has remained stable since the
1970s (Funk et al. 2019). Even during the
COVID-19 pandemic, trust in scientists has
remained extremely high (Luna, Bering, and
Halberstadt 2021). Given that the public often
turns to science for accurate health information,
Briony Swire-Thompson is a senior research scientist
and director of the Psychology of Misinformation Lab
at Northeastern University. She is a cognitive psycholo-
gist who investigates what drives belief in inaccurate
information and how corrections can be designed to
maximize impact.
David Lazer is a professor of political science and com-
puter sciences at Northeastern University. His scholar-
ship focuses on computational social science and social
networks, with a particular focus on misinformation
and political communication. He is colead of the COVID
states project, which has charted public opinion in all
fifty states through the pandemic.

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