Why people believe in conspiracy theories

by Benjamin Lyons, Vittorio Merola, and Jason Reifler

Conspiracy theories are finally out of the shadows.

While that might be a bit dramatic, it is true that social scientists are beginning to pay more attention to conspiracy theories. As a result, we have an ever improving understanding of who believes in conspiracy theories, and why. Continue reading

AAAS and public opinion about science around the world

by Patrick Sturgis

Next week the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) convenes in Austin Texas for its annual jamboree, showcasing new science for an audience comprising policymakers, journalists, and scientists. AAAS is the largest multi-disciplinary scientific meeting in the world, with this year’s programme covering topics as diverse as gene editing, space exploration, driverless cars, neuroscience, and quantum computing.

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Academics in ivory towers? It’s time to change the record

James_Georgalakis 150x150James Georgalakis is the director of communications and impact at the Institute of Development Studies and is director of the ESRC-DFID Impact Initiative for International Development Research.

Here he asks: are scholars really so out of touch with the real world or do we need to look again at this tired narrative that doesn’t reflect the reality of modern academia?

Explaining my work as a director of communications and impact in an academic institution can sometimes prove challenging.

A case in point was a recent conversation with a new acquaintance about work that went something along the lines of: “So, what is it you do again. Something about research isn’t it?” To which I replied: “Yes, that’s right. I work with academics helping them make sure that their research is put to good use – you know, informing policy, changing attitudes – so it doesn’t just end up in some journal that no one ever reads.”

“Getting them out of their ivory towers, then” came the reply, at which point I nodded vigorously and gave them a knowing smile. Continue reading

Spotting the fake

Marina Jirotka 150x150

Marina Jirotka

Helena Webb 150x150

Helena Webb

Marina Jirotka is Professor of Human Centred Computing, Associate Director of the Oxford e-Research Centre and Associate Researcher of the Oxford Internet Institute.

Helena Webb is a senior researcher in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford.

Here they consider what can be done by government and social media platforms to tackle the problem of fake news.

As campaigning in the UK General Election gained momentum in April 2017, the Chairman of the Government’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee called for Facebook to improve its handling of fake news on the platform. Referencing concerns that the spread of false stories across social media had influenced the results of the 2016 US Presidential election, Damian Collins MP suggested that the propagation of content of this kind could threaten the ‘integrity of democracy’. Continue reading