Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

UnMiSSeD - Understanding Misinformation and Science in Societal Debates

UnMiSSeD studies the interaction between misinformation and science in societal debates using a mixed qualitative-quantitative approach.

2024 - 2025
Vincent Traag

Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) and University of Geneva (UNIGE)

The past few years have shown that science continues to play a large role in societal debates, with COVID-19 being a prime example. In many debates, scientific studies are used as evidence for arguing against or for certain positions. In addition, scientists themselves are involved in debates and take up certain positions. At the same time, societal debates are sometimes surrounded by mis/disinformation, ranging from the misinterpretation of research results to the purposeful circulation of incorrect results. Evidence of research that counters such mis/disinformation may be mistrusted, or mischaracterized.

We know relatively little of the dynamics of interaction between science and mis/disinformation. Clearly, science contributes to building a solid knowledge base of our world, its challenges and their potential solutions. However, whether science is able to help diminish or correct misinformation is not clear. In the UnMiSSeD project we take a mixed qualitative-quantitative approach, and try to answer questions such as: Does scientific information establish a common evidence base for the various "sides" in a societal debate? Does scientific information lead to a convergence or to a divergence of opinions?

We will build a large dataset of a societal debate around COVID-19 on social media and study the use of science in this debate. In addition to large-scale analyses, we take a qualitative "close reading" approach to study how discussions permeate the porous boundaries of social media.

The UnMiSSed project provides unique information to identify and characterise different actors and the role of science in societal debates. The results of the project are expected to support evidence-based strategies to counter misinformation dynamics in societal debates where science plays a crucial role.

This project is supported by the European Media and Information Fund.  





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