Author: Ionica Smeets – Leiden University, Netherlands


  • Aimee Challenger – Cardiff University, United Kingdom
  • Roy Meijer – Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
  • Petroc Sumner – Cardiff University, United Kingdom

Misinformation about scientific results is omnipresent in the media with claims such as ‘Treating with statins a waste of time’ or ‘Hot tea causes cancer’. In this session we discuss ways to overcome this type of misinformation, from both a theoretical and practical standpoint. We present a series of papers that look at the interaction between scientists, press officers, journalists and readers in transforming health news.

Are academic press releases that are carefully aligned with the evidence less newsworthy? How do researchers work with press information officers? Does communicating caveats disengage readers? Can expert quotes help readers in making sense of science news? And is myth busting an effective method for overcoming misinformation?

Our speakers are academics and science communication practitioners from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands with backgrounds ranging from psychology to communication science. We will limit the presentation of each of the papers to at most ten mintues and aim for a lively discussion with the participants of this session about how to overcome misinformation about science in the media.

The order of our papers will be:

1. Petroc Sumner – Claims of causality in health news: A randomised trial

2. Roy Meijer – How do (should?) researchers work with their public information officers?

3. Ionica Smeets – Independent expert quotes as an indicator for better science news

4. Aimée Challenger – Is myth busting an effective method for overcoming misinformation?

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Linked papers
Theme: Transformation

Author: Ionica Smeets – Leiden University, Netherlands

Numbers do not lie, but they are quite good at concealing the truth. In this abridged version of her interactive theatre lecture Ionica Smeets shows the audience how easily they can be fooled by numbers with surprising real life examples, weird mathematical paradoxes, irrefutable logic, counterintuitive experiments and specially made animations. Her goal is to permanently change the way people view numbers.

The theatre lecture ends in a group discussion where we talk about mathematical questions from audience members and the issues they think mathematicians should work on.

Ionica Smeets has given many sold-out theatre lectures on mathematics in The Netherlands. She is a professor of science communication with a PhD in pure mathematics. She writes a weekly column on mathematics for national newspaper De Volkskrant since 2009, has presented various tv-shows and published several popular-scientific bestsellers.

Reviews described her theatre lecture as both very funny and very insightful. Many audience members keep sending in great examples of lying numbers years after they saw this theatre lecture.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Perfomance
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice