Fake news (deliberate, malicious, or even accidental disinformation) in the context of COVID-19 is currently circulating virally to such an extent that it has been labelled a “disinfodemic” (https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061592). A reason why fake news often goes viral is because there is an unconscious tendency to bias attention towards negative news (https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/why-is-there-no-good-news/). Disinformation and negative news significantly affects human behaviour in both public and private spheres. In a recent tragic example, a human being died after consuming a product designed to clean fish tanks as it contained chloroquine. This terrible outcome followed a press conference where President Donald Trump suggested, without firm scientific evidence, that hydroxychloroquine could be a potential cure for COVID-19.
According to Dr. Nyilasy of the University of Melbourne*, it is particularly difficult for people to detect fake news. This is because it resembles real news and we then unconsciously trust it due to pattern recognition (https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/fake-news-in-the-age-of-covid-19). Therefore, strong public confidence in science and guidance on how to detect fake news is critical to countering its destructive force. This level of public confidence is crucial for the successful deployment of technologies to combat COVID-19. Furthermore, it is essential to encouraging and ensuring acceptance of difficult policies such as social distancing, personal protection, and many other measures that impact the daily lives of all Europeans.
To this end, the team behind "TRUST IN SCIENCE" is working to ensure that students, citizens, and members of the scientific community all across the EU are aware of the infrastructure, policies, and programs Europe has in place to maintain integrity in science and to ensure the responsible conduct of science.
"TRUST IN SCIENCE" seeks to combat mistrust in science. It also intends to delegitimize unsubstantiated societal decisions or folk beliefs based on intuition and tradition (like drinking alcohol to fight corona). This is achieved through citizen engagement via access to clear guidance on how to detect fake news as well as through raising awareness about the importance of scientific peer-reviewed research on battling the Corona Crisis.
Based on the initial results of a research project (Path2integrity), which is funded by the EU's Horizon 2020, the usage of “Learning Tools” such as “Learning Cards” can be effective for training in Research Integrity and for promoting awareness of the impact of integrity in science on society.
During this hackathon, we created an interactive online tool which:
• Informs citizens about genuine scientific research and reliable scientific results
• Deepens citizens’ understanding of scientific research by interactive activities and role playing
• Empowers citizens to recognise and trust correct scientific information regarding COVID-19
• Encourages citizens to become advocates for research integrity by using learning cards and the insights of the research project Path2integrity.
For the technical design, we used Manual.to, a web-based software platform for quickly creating multilingual illustrated stories, mostly used by multinational companies and organisations to train their employees or interact with customers. The CEO of manual.to collaborated with us on this project. Due to the fact that manual.to is a ready-to-use product, we were able to create a minimum viable product. Further requirements of the project included increasing the accessibility factor of the tool, such as easily digestible information for diverse ages, young to old. By using illustrations, we were able to increase the tool’s accessibility and make the information digestible to a wider range of people. A next step would be to create more target group-specific learning cards in order to better address their information needs.
WHAT WE HAVE DONE DURING THIS WEEKEND:
We started the hackathon on Friday night (24.4) with more and more members joining the team throughout the evening from different backgrounds, fields, and countries. Path2Integrity.org members, who initially registered the project, formed the basis of the group, and the rest of the team members joined due to the mutual targets of the project [trust in science] and the hackathon [fight COVID-19]. The first night, we had a long conference call using jit.si for personal and professional introductions. Considering the initial framework from Path2Integrity, we tried to understand what we could attempt to accomplish during this hackathon as a group and what the project could be. We ended the session with one unfocused target: to have a system of online learning cards running on the manual.to platform. This online system would be a substitute for the regular Path2Integrity in-class learning cards that cannot currently be used due to the COVID-19 social distancing measures). We planned to meet again the following evening.
Day 1 was filled with separate calls between team members and smaller groups trying to agree on the way forward before the larger group call in the evening. During the day, we had more specific conversations and started to go over the new demo on manual.to. We had a lot of misunderstandings on what our clear and simple goal was for the hackathon and who was leading the project and process. We had a lot of decisions to make, and felt that we weren’t progressing. During the evening’s group call, we finally had a good clear picture of the project’s details and talked with our group’s mentor. We divided up tasks for the members that were still present and available to assist (some members disappeared, or had other issues and problems with time zones). Working late into the night, we put together a stable demo with great new content.
Day 2 was a busy day, as we were trying to complete and improve the demo, while also trying to start (and finish) the video. We had a clear picture of everyone’s tasks, but limited time to do it, especially with our work and family at home with us due to it being a weekend hackathon and stay-at-home social distancing was in effect. We really enjoyed working with complete strangers on a positive and beneficial mutual goal. We ran surveys and got feedback on the demo and its necessity, which motivated us to further define our goal, and to implement some agreed upon changes. We received great tips for creating the video from our group’s mentor, especially with knowing that the group didn’t have a designer on board, and the person that was responsible for this video task was no longer available to complete it by the deadline. Working late into the night once again, we manage to have an improved, well-running demo, as well as a great pitching video, and we were able to submit everything before the deadline.
THE SOLUTION'S IMPACT TO THE CRISIS:
We will establish a connected community of “advocates for research integrity”. Our tool will contribute to decreasing the COVID-19 infection curve and mortality rates thanks to the dissemination and better understanding of scientific information. This will lead to cost reduction and fraud prevention due to the avoidance and critical rejection of fake news.
THE NECESSITIES IN ORDER TO CONTINUE THE PROJECT:
"TRUST IN SCIENCE" is a social impact project. Our tool tackles 5 SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs) of the Agenda 2030: HEALTH, EDUCATION, REDUCTION OF INEQUALITIES, DEMOCRACY, AND PARTNERSHIP. It's important for our businesses, our well-being, and our democracies.
We need further validation of our idea and improvements. To accomplish this, it would be helpful to reach out to relevant networks within the EU in relevant fields and sectors such as education and health. We would like to add the possibility of enabling dialogue directly on the tool, but to do this, we need technical expertise on how to set up online communities. Also, we hope to collaborate with larger organizations such as WHO or Europol in order to increase our impact, as we see the necessity to increase trust in science not only in Europe but worldwide.
THE VALUE OF OUR SOLUTION AFTER THE CRISIS:
After the crisis, we envision that our idea can be leveraged to raise people’s awareness of science and enable them to critically reflect on information using our online tool, especially in regards to other topics impacted by disinformation (fake news) such as:
• Climate change
• SDG-related topics
• Social justice
By adding the possibility to have a dialogue based on the learning cards, we also envision to establish and foster a community of advocates for research integrity.
[N.B.: This submission has been edited after the final deadline because it had been inexplicably replaced with an older version. We have updated it with our final version originally submitted before the 9am CEST deadline.]
The URL to the prototype: https://trustinscience.manual.to/browse/AXG1QOhgHOIPoN2DisLx
The URL to the pitch video: https://youtu.be/r75MOe9RcxA
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