Our Approach and Projects

Our approach is centered on the idea that there is a third category of misinformation, beyond mis- and disinformation, that has played a critical role in the spread of misinformation during COVID, which results from “contrarian amplification.” This idea has been developed by the project’s co-founder, Bob Morris, in a forthcoming publication. Contrarian amplification happens when the work of researchers who are generating misinformation is amplified both intentionally by those who benefit from those distortions and unintentionally by the nature of existing systems for disseminating research.

Through Research Now, we are building a solution to this insidious problem that arises from the tendency of social media, conventional media, and traditional scientific journals amplify controversy. We are creating a thoughtful, rigorous place for scientists to discuss science with each other, free from outside amplification, while using the rigorous skepticism they are trained to apply to research results. To accomplish this, we seek to build online communities connecting scientists to discuss research anytime, anywhere, the moment it becomes available.

Within the conventional systems for sharing research, there are three places where active discussions about new research happen: in academic departments, typically in journal-club or seminar type settings; at conferences around presentations and posters; or by submitting letters to the editor in response to a specific article (which may or may not be published). Social media, particularly Twitter, has come to play a critical, if increasingly dysfunctional, role in the discovery of and reaction to new research.

Initially, we are building communities and tools to have these discussions in areas of science that are directly relevant to important public policy issues, starting with COVID (public health); climate change (resilience planning); and agriculture (land and water use and planning).  We are organizing, and in some cases creating, self-identifying communities focused on important topics with a goal of creating new, self-governing ways to capture scientific consensus as it forms and evolves without undue distortion or deliberate manipulation. We refer to this distortion and deliberate manipulation as contrarian amplification.

A key part of this process is a novel forum for scientists to engage in open collaborative meta-analysis about science relevant to important public policy decisions. The key question with any new research discussed in our forum will be:  How does it shift our understanding given what we already know?

We will use a pilot project to develop the tools, experience, expert community and in-house expertise to expand this project to address broad range of topics. The pilot project will focus retrospectively on the efficacy of masks in preventing the transmission of COVID and is described here.