Learning to critically evaluate information. Illustration by Jordan Collver.
Learning to critically evaluate information. Illustration by Jordan Collver.

We are excited to announce two new Lifeology SciComm Program “flashcard” courses that can help anyone learn how to become a better steward of quality science and health information! These courses are beautifully illustrated by Jordan Collver and were designed to be useful to broad audiences interested in countering misinformation or avoiding its trap.

The first flash-course is about Countering Misinformation in the Information Age, written by Aditi Subramaniam, a neuroscience PhD turned science writer.

The second flash-course, “What is an infodemic and how can we prevent it?“, is a collaboration with Cochrane and World Health Organization experts! In this course, learn with Ronald, who has been misguided by misinformation, as he gains science and media literacy with his friend Maria.

Read on to go behind the scenes of this course with its creators!

“We are all infodemic managers – we all can gain skills to help ourselves and our family and friends cut through the cacophony of information about COVID-19, our health and our society.” – Tina Purnat, WHO

Infodemics course announcement graphic new
View Misinformation Course
View Infodemics Course in English
View Infodemics Course in Spanish

Q&A with the Course Creators

Q: What do you do personally to protect yourself from science or health misinformation and avoid sharing it?

Tiffany Duque, Cochrane: I always read through most of the article [before I share it], especially the results and findings. If it seems like an opinion piece, and not just stating facts or data, I do not share it. I also check the date because often old articles are re-shared out of context. And, I always check a known source to see if the information is also available through a reputable institution like a university, science journal, well-known health site (Mayo, Cochrane) CDC, etc. If I can’t find the same info from a second site to verify, I do not share. Ask questions – does this make sense? Is it objective?

Jordan Collver: Check my biases and remember that mis/disinformation can work “both ways”. If something slots a little too neatly into my assumptions and expectations, I try to do a little follow-up digging to check the key claims being made. If it turns out to be reliable, so much the better! But it’s too easy to see something, say “Amen!” and “like” without any further thought.

Aditi: I’ve found that the best way to protect myself from sharing misinformation is to simply share less! I share articles on social media very selectively, and this gives me time to make sure that the sources are credible. I also tend to be extremely skeptical of things people share on social media without sources as a default, so I tend to take additional steps to make sure that what I share is credible. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of doing a quick Google search to see if lots of reliable outlets are covering the issue. Like we mentioned in our course on countering misinformation, a single outlet covering a piece of “news” is usually a huge red flag!

Q: Tell us something about your experience creating your Lifeology course.

Tiffany Duque, Cochrane: I participated as an editor and reviewer on behalf of Cochrane for the content of the infodemics course. I haven’t worked often with scicomm, so it was fascinating to see data, science jargon, and journal articles turned into art and flashcards. I’m very excited about the collaboration and hope to work with Lifeology again. I was also pleased to share my knowledge on the infodemic and contribute to the mitigation.

Aditi: I was the writer of the course on countering misinformation. This was my first Lifeology course as a writer, and I enjoyed each step of the process. It was great to first work with Paige on the content of the cards, and her input really helped me learn to cull unnecessary words from my writing. As someone who is used to writing long-form articles (which tend to get a little wordy), this was a great learning that I will take with me. I also really enjoyed collaborating with the artist for the course, Jordan Collver. Watching him come up with ideas for the visuals for the cards was fascinating, and I absolutely love the way the illustrations have turned out in the course. Seeing the completed course along with the illustrations was the best part of doing this course for me!

Jordan Collver: I created the illustrations for the Misinformation course with Aditi and the Infodemic course with Cochrane. Having worked on both courses, which are ostensibly similar in subject matter, I was surprised by how much there is to explore on the topic, and from different angles. Where there did happen to be overlapping ideas between the courses, it was a nice challenge to think of metaphors, symbols and scenarios to keep them visually distinct and emphasize different points.

Q: What is a takeaway you hope people walk away from your course with?

Tiffany Duque, Cochrane: Stay curious. Don’t believe everything you hear/read, find your trusted sources and stick to them. Be responsible in sharing information.

Tina Purnat, WHO: I hope that people reading the infodemics course will feel that we are all infodemic managers – we all can gain skills to help ourselves and our family and friends cut through the cacophony of information about COVID-19, our health and our society.

Aditi: There are a few cognitive biases that make us susceptible to misinformation, and simply being aware of these can greatly help. I hope that science communicators who consume the course also come out with a few takeaways such as the importance of empathy in engaging with people who share misinformation.

Jordan Collver: Pause and think. Seek out reliable sources of information or people who know where to find them. Don’t alienate people who may be taken in by mis/disinformation. More often than not they are coming from a very human place, and it’s much harder to disagree with a friend than an adversary.

Q: What is your favorite visual from one of these courses?

Aditi: To take just one example, I like the metaphor of a robber for misinformation, and how he appears in different cards in Wanted posters! Such touches are great because I find myself discovering new things each time I read the course.

Tiffany Duque, Cochrane: The one where Maria realizes she is not immune to misinformation either: “predatory journal” and “peer reviewed”!!

Jordan Collver: My favourite illustration from the Misinformation course is one with various fears about the COVID pandemic looming over our main character. It was fun to try to represent these in an emotive way and create a dynamic image. My favourite image from the Infodemic course is the tsunami wave cross-section depicting the shifting “tectonic plates” of the pandemic causing a surge of information – both good and bad – rushing towards shore. Credit to Paige from Lifeology for this brilliant way to clearly frame what an infodemic is, which helped inform the overall visual theme of the course. It also gave me the chance to pay homage to the famous “Great Wave of Kanagawa” painting as well as one of my favourite artists Eyvind Earle.

Tina Purnat, WHO: My favorite image from the infodemic course is the one below. To me, it really brings home the message that we are experiencing the infodemic and the pandemic together. One person’s actions can help other people down the line.

Umbrella Screenshot
Image from Infodemics course. Illustration by Jordan Collver.

“Empathy is critical in engaging with people who share misinformation.” – Aditi