JOI Learning, 2006. Adapted with permission.
Bombarded by Web sites, the evening news, newspapers, and popular magazines, citizen scientists often have to interpret scientific information directly from the media. Sometimes this can be a confusing process. How can you, as a citizen scientist, figure out whether science information you get from the media is reliable? More importantly, how can you find out what the information means for your life and the decisions you make?
The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), an international marine research program, offers a unique perspective on these issues. Like many research organizations, IODP sends press releases about scientific discoveries to the media that you may eventually read, hear, or see reported. This activity will use IODP as an example to help you find ways of checking science news stories for accuracy.
- Copies of one or two recent science news articles from the Internet, a newspaper, or a news magazine (one for each person)
- Access to the Internet
Work in pairs to read over the science news story carefully. Follow the steps below to find out if the information in the article is accurate and current.
- A research organization such as IODP should be listed or mentioned in the report. If not, look for photograph credits.
- Conduct an Internet search for the organization, and find its list of press releases. The relevant press release may be difficult to read, but other reference materials may be provided that can help you interpret the story.
For example, see the Scientific American article, "Drilled Core Exposes Hitherto Unseen Layers of Earth's Crust," available through the Expedition 312 classroom activity at http://www.joilearning.org. Was IODP listed? Conduct your Internet search and see if you can find the press release.
- If the organization that sponsored the research isn't listed, try searching for a scientist mentioned in the report. Who is listed in the Scientific American article? Where does he or she work? What will you find by conducting an Internet search for this scientist and his or her university?
- What is the subject of the article? What did the scientists do that they've never done before? Answer this question, and use the relevant keywords to search the Internet. How many references did you find? Does this help to verify the story?
- Finally, if you've located a Web site for the organization that sponsored the research, in this case IODP, look for an education page that might offer videos, photos, slides, and a variety of interpretive materials that might improve your understanding of the science in question.
See http://www.joilearning.org for videos, slides, fact sheets, and activities about the science of IODP Expedition 312!