News from the Field

Watch our latest science communications webinar on recent developments in understanding misinformation

This week, Media Impact Funders continued its series of funder conversations to connect grantmakers with research, strategy and practice in science communications with its latest webinar that attempts to understand how behavioral science can help curb the spread of misinformation.

Watch the webinar here and use the time stamps below to follow along in the recording:

The webinar featured:

  • Vince Stehle (1:21), executive director of Media Impact Funders, who provided context for the discussion, outlining four areas of concern for funders looking to understand and stop the spread of misinformation and disinformation online: 1. Better definitions of evaluation 2. The use of popular culture to communicate with new and diverse audiences 3. Better understanding audiences. 4. Building connections between research and practice.
  • Elizabeth Christopherson (3:46), president of the Rita Allen Foundation and vice chair of MIF, who talked about the foundation’s perspective on understanding and combating misinformation, and the Misinformation Solutions Forum it organized in collaboration with the Aspen Institute. The Forum brought together academic researchers, technology professionals, data scientists, journalists, educators, community leaders, funders and 12 graduate student fellows to explore six promising ideas for curbing the spread of misinformation. Read more about the Misinformation Solutions Forum.
  • Soroush Vosoughi (11:40), incoming assistant professor of computer science at Darmouth, provided an overview of the research he and a team conducted on the spread of true and false news online. The findings, he said, show that false news spreads at a much more rapid rate than information that is true, in part because of how emotionally engaging it is.
  • Brian Southwell (25:31), program director of Science in the Public Sphere at RTI International, shared some of the outcomes of the Misinformation Solutions Forum, including three of the winning ideas. Read more about those winning projects. Southwell spoke at our 2017 Media Impact Forum about communicating science in an age of doubt and science denialism. Watch it here.

Last year, MIF hosted a webinar series organized by Kelly Born of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation on philanthropic initiatives that seek to intervene at one of three points in the information system: production, distribution and consumption. Read more about the series.

MIF is building a network around science communications

In 2017, with an initial investment from the Rita Allen Foundation, we launched a new effort to  build a network of funders who recognize and support the need to invest in productive public engagement with evidence-based science communication. Funders have a key role to play not only in supporting content production, but in clarifying and elevating research that can support quality journalism, impactful storytelling, and scientists’ own ability to convey the importance and urgency of their work. The goal of this network is to promote collaboration between science media funders, and to  increase private support for science communications and research, at a critical moment in time for our nation and the planet.

In November 2017, MIF members  gathered in advance of the National Academy of Sciences’ Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication III to discuss opportunities for collaboration and issues facing the field. in the effort to connect science with people from different backgrounds, experiences and education levels. Together, attendees developed the following series of priorities:

  • Better defining and developing evaluation and measurement strategies, and concrete outcomes
  • Building connections between research and practice—including designing useful experiments and applying findings from research in communications practice
  • Using of popular culture, art and creative spaces, and libraries and other community spaces, to connect science with a broader array of people Understanding audiences and tailoring messages and frames accordingly

To continue the conversation, MIF has developed a series of funder conversations to connect grantmakers with research, strategy and practice in science communications.

Past MIF programs include:

The Public Face of Science
Last fall, we hosted a webinar in collaboration with the Academy of Arts and Sciences on the Public Face of Science, a multi-year project that explores the intersection of science and civic life. That conversation offered funders a preview of research on public attitudes ranging from general perceptions to the influence of demographics on views on specific issues. Read more.

How Popular Culture Can Elevate the Public’s Understanding of Science
How do we continue reaching new and diverse audiences with science content that sparks curiosity and learning? In collaboration with the Rita Allen Foundation, Media Impact Funders presented a webinar exploring how popular culture can elevate the public’s understanding of science. It offered funders a glimpse into how two foundations—the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Simons Foundation—are supporting and disseminating science content to a broad audience. Read more.

The 2018 Media Impact Forum
At our annual Media Impact Forum on May 10 in Philadelphia, we focused on the excellent practice in the communications of scientific information, and new ideas in the science of communications. The Forum helped philanthropy focus on the special role of science in our national debates, the importance of sharpening the communications of science, and broader issues about how to understand when communications and storytelling make a difference. Read more.

New Approaches to Reaching New Audiences
This latest webinar was organized around two convenings: SMASH (Science Media Awards & Summit in the Hub) and WGBH Innovation IdeaLab. We invited speakers from these two science media conferences to discuss the question we’ve been exploring for over a year now: For funders who care about science and civic life, how do we reach new and diverse audiences with science content that sparks curiosity and learning? Read more.

Interested in learning more about this network? Let us know.