The battle between fake and factual news

“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom”, said Edward Osborne Wilson, an American entomologist and a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. [1] While we are being overwhelmed by information on a daily basis, the spread of false or manipulated information is dominating media and conversations. Misinformation is everywhere and it is hard to ignore. But what is fake news, and how can we recognise and tackle it?

Fake news
According to Denise-Marie Ordway from Journalist’s Resource of Harvard Kennedy School describes it as “a term that can mean different things, depending on the context. News satire is often called fake news as are parodies.” And also “…., conspiracy theories, …, hoaxes”. [2]
Paul Chadwick from The Guardian, “Defining fake news will help us expose it.” He points out, as he describes, a “draft definition of fake news”, as following:
Fake news means fictions deliberately fabricated and presented as non-fiction with the intent to mislead recipients into treating fiction as fact or into doubting verifiable fact.” [3]

 Pixabayfig1: photo from Pixabay
LiAnna Davis, deputy director of the Wiki Education Foundation, states that “Wikipedia has been dealing with fake news since it started 16 years ago.” [4] But as a reliable source on this topic, Wikipedia defines fake news as: “Deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.” [5]

While fake news and its significant impact is increasing, many preserve confidence in their own ability to detect misinformation. According to Pew Research Center “It is difficult to measure the precise extent to which people actually see news that has been completely fabricated – given that news consumers could see but not recognize made-up news stories as well as mistake factual stories for false ones.” [6] (see fig 2)

fig2: Source: PEW Research Center

The necessity of truth
Patrick Engleman, a high school chemistry teacher, states in an interview with nprEd: “You can’t trust everything you hear. In a time when access to information is easier than ever.” [7] In the same article, Susan Yoon, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, suggests teachers to give students the tools to think like a scientist: “Teach them to gather evidence, check sources, deduce, hypothesize and synthesize results. Hopefully, then, they will come to the truth on their own.” [7] According to The Guardian’s chief revenue officer Hamish Nicklin, “The world needs the truth now more than ever. In a world where the most important people in the planet are using fake news to undermine the values so many of us hold so dear, it has never been so important that we have a strong and vibrant media, and remember that facts and truth are sacred.” [8]
Even companies like Lush (cosmetics) are also concerned with the significant impact of fake news. According to writer Annabelle Letten from Lush, “Both the BBC and The Guardian have dedicated teams made up of developers, filmographers and journalists to ensure the stories they cover are fully researched and thought-provoking.” [8]

Solutions: Library’s crucial part
It is crucial for education institutions and libraries to provide guidance and tools in order to recognise and separate fake news from authentic factual news. Many academic libraries in the worldwide (most of them in the US and UK) have created Library Guides (or LibGuides) around this subject, such as Harvard, Cornell, NYU, UC at Berkeley and Penn State. [9]

As Eric Novotny from Penn State’s University Libraries points out: “Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.” [10]

Significantly, Berkeley Library of the University of California has not only provided researchers and students a list of fake news websites, but has also pointed out the effects of fake news and has summed up solutions for detecting fake news. [11] (see fig3)

5 way to spot fake news
fig3: Source Berkeley Library
Harvard Library has provided a list on Fact-Checking Sites and Plug-Ins. [12] Many university libraries in the US (Cornel [13], Illinois [14], CPP [15], Yale [16]) and UK(Cambridge [17]) have organised workshops in order to highlight this problem.

Finally, Journalist’s Resource [2] adds: “Some other resources that may be helpful are the Poynter Institute’s tips on debunking fake news stories [18] and the First Draft Partner Network, a global collaboration of newsrooms, social media platforms and fact-checking organizations that were launched in September 2016 to battle fake news.” [19]

[1] Wikipedia. [online]: E. O. Wilson
[2] D.-M. Ordway. [Online]: fake news conspiracy theories journalism research
[3] P. Chadwick. [Online]: defining fake news will help us expose it.
[4] A. Kamentz. [Online]: the earth is flat check wikipedia.
[5] Wikipedia. [Online]: fake news.
[6] A. M. J. H. Michel Barthel. [Online]: many americans believe fake news is sowing confusion.
[7] A. Wolfman-Arent. [Online]: the ongoing battle between science teachers and fake news.
[8] A. Letten. [Online]: what fake news and how do-we tackle it.
[9] LibGuides Community. [Online]: LibGuides Community.
[10] E. Novotny. [Online]: fake news.
[11] University of California,Berkeley Library. [Online]: fake news.
[12] Harvard Library. [Online]: fake.
[13] Fake news workshop cornell [Online]: fake news workshop.
[14] Fake news workshop illinois [Online]: fake news workshop.
[15] Fake news workshop CPP [Online]: fake news workshop.
[16] Fighting fake news workshop [Online]: Fighting fake news workshop.
[17] PhD clinic workshop [Online]: PhD clinic workshop.
[18] A. Mantzarlis. [Online]: 6 tips to debunk fake news stories by yourself.
[19] First Draft news. [Online]: draftnews.

Open Access: the Dutch Consortium – publishers deal

From Science Guide I found out that, as more contracts of the Dutch Consortium with their publishers were made public by Leo Waaijers in 2016, the resistance put up by Elsevier and Springer to the exposure of their individual contracts raised a question mark about their real intentions, especially related to the Open Access policy.

Two weeks ago, due to the leak of Elsevier’s contract, the publisher came under scrutiny because of the terms of its three years Open Access pilot (2016-2018) that seems set up to fail.

Image from Science Guide’s article “Leaked Elsevier contract reveals pushback”

Science Guide says that the deal shows restrictions imposed to the researchers, the raise of collective fees and the short range of publications from their portfolio where the researchers could publish Open Access – a rather “disheartening picture of the so called ‘Golden deal’ reached by the Dutch universities with their major publisher: Elsevier” [1].

Still, one has to look at a broader picture: the business case for these deals and the win-win situation for both universities and publishers.

The contracts’ descriptions are available – for anyone interested – on the openaccess website where, for every publisher, one can find listed the Terms & Conditions of their deal, links to the publishers’ websites with More information and, in four cases, details over their Workflow [2].

Continue reading

Citizen Science closing knowledge gaps

Washington Post tells us: “Three superplayers of an addictive online puzzle game have done something that Stanford University Medical School believes is unprecedented: They’ve become the first authors on a paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal based on their discoveries in playing the large-scale, online video game EteRNA.”

The Journal of Molecular Biology is a peer-reviewed scientific journal where authors with solid scientific reputation publish their works. The scientific article in question was published last month by the three “citizen scientists” authors, considered amateur scientists. How is this possible?

Who gets to publish scientific articles has to go through the regular channel of working with authorities in the scientific field and then becoming a scientific authority: it’s the thread of trust in the creation of knowledge. This is the traditional way to develop one’s own expertise and get recognised by the scientific community. However, this way changed over the last decades: new educational pathways grew inside the traditional academic environment via the MOOCs but also outside them via citizen science projects.

The MOOCs are educational models that approach a large audience, with a huge impact on the global education, where the knowledge, structured in various subjects is given away: it flows from universities to people.

In the citizen scientist project model, the knowledge flows the other way around. The universities need help, they have huge projects working with big data that ask for too much money and infrastructure or too many people, all in all too much for a university to handle by itself. They need help not only in the form of funding (level 1) and distributed computer processing power (level 2) but also through crowdsourcing human-processing power – fresh, non-biased input – to analyse complex problems, images or samples (level 3) [2]. So the universities created frameworks for people to learn and challenge them to help solve problems with great impact for the whole society.

Continue reading

Elsevier and Snowball Metrics


This gallery contains 2 photos.

Scopus has recently changed its metrics when displaying an article. Take a look at the extended metrics (fig. 1): you’ll see categories like Citation measurements, Scholarly Activity or Social Activity. The metrics themselves – read Engagement Highlingts – are enriched … Continue reading