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episode

Episode 110: communicating scientific uncertainty about covid-19 — with alice fleerackers

March 16, 2021

With the onset of the pandemic came a pressing need to bring health science information to the public, and fast. SFU researcher Alice Fleerackers joins Below the Radar to discuss the uptake of pre-print, or un-peer reviewed research by news media in the age of COVID-19. She speaks to host Melissa Roach about a recent study she has co-authored that analyzes how media communicate uncertainty in COVID-19 research.

Alice is a freelance writer and researcher specializing in online science communication. Currently, she is a researcher at ScholCommLab, the Research Officer at Art the Science, and a Science in Society Editor at Science Borealis. She is also a PhD student at SFU, where she is exploring how uncertain health science is communicated online.

In this episode, we discuss the advantages and drawbacks of reporting on unpublished health research; issues of public trust in journalism and science; and how researchers, communicators, and consumers of health science media can each navigate these complexities, even as the ground shifts beneath our feet. 

Listen on: Soundcloud  |  Apple Podcasts  |  Spotify  |  Google Podcasts  |  Stitcher  |  Podyssey

Resources

 STUDY: “Communicating Scientific Uncertainty in an Age of COVID-19: An Investigation into the Use of Preprints by Digital Media Outlets” - Health Communication
— Scholarly Communications Lab
— ASAPbio Preprints FAQ page 
#PreprintsInThePublicEye event [Video]
 “Problems with Preprints: Covering Rough-Draft Manuscripts Responsibly” - The Open Notebook

Press Coverage

— “In the rush for coronavirus information, unreviewed scientific papers are being publicized” - The Conversation
“News media outlets vary widely in how they cover preprint studies, new research finds” - The Journalist’s Resource (includes other helpful resources)
“Media outlets inconsistently mention uncertain status of COVID-19 preprints” - Science

Alice Fleerackers

Alice Fleerackers is a freelance writer, a researcher at the ScholCommLab, the Communications Officer at Art the Science, and a Science in Society Editor at Science Borealis. As a doctoral student at Simon Fraser University, she is working under the supervision of Dr. Juan Pablo Alperin to explore how controversial science is communicated in the digital sphere.

With degrees in psychology and publishing, Alice is passionate about bringing research into everyday life. As a professional communicator and researcher, she’s had the pleasure of interviewing psychologists, scientists, and many others on everything from the psychology of cat video addiction to the science behind astrological belief. She’s also worked as a magazine editor, a newspaper writer, and a book publicist, and has contributed to outlets such as the Globe and Mail, Nautilus, and more.


Below the Radar is a weekly podcast hosted by Am Johal. We talk environmental and social justice, arts, culture, community-building and urban issues with featured guests. Hosted on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, this podcast is produced by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement as a part of our Knowledge Democracy Project @ 312 Main — encouraging the meaningful exchange of ideas and information across communities.

Below the Radar is a weekly podcast hosted by Am Johal. We talk environmental and social justice, arts, culture, community-building and urban issues with featured guests. Hosted on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, this podcast is produced by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement as a part of our Knowledge Democracy Project @ 312 Main — encouraging the meaningful exchange of ideas and information across communities.