The Science Behind Media Reports
Change 1 Lab Exercise
This week’s lab assignment consists of 2 parts that will build on the articles, discussion, and lectures from week 1.
• The first part will serve as an introduction to searching scientific peer-reviewed journals, which you will have to do for your project.
• The second part continues our topic on fake news in the media. Do you think you could spot fake news or would you be fooled?
Part 1: Searching peer-reviewed journals
The articles you read and discussed in week 1, "The Challenges We Face" and "Planetary Boundaires",
covered several broad environmental issues meant for a wide
audience of readers. Now we ask that you look at some of the peer-reviewed
literature that forms the scientific basis for such articles. Peer-reviewed articles have been examined by other scientists who are qualified to evaluate the subject of the paper. Most journals listed in Google Scholar and the Web of Science (see below) are peer-reviewed. Choose one
of the specific topics (derived from the general topics we explored in "The Challenges
We Face") from the list below.
Then look up a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal such as Science or Nature (two of the leading science journals) related to that
One way to double-check whether a journal is peer-reviewed and scholarly is to look up the journal’s title in Ulrich’s Web Global Serials Directory (U-M login & password will be required): (http://ulrichsweb.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/ulrichsweb/). Go to the search bar on the upper right and type in the Journal’s title (e.g. Nature) and choose Title (Exact) on the drop-down menu. Note: If you choose Title (Exact) make sure you know the journal title and not just the abbreviated title. Then click “Search.” If there are multiple choices, find the one that matches the journal title you have and look at the icons to the left of the title name. The image of a shirt means the journal is peer-reviewed (or ‘Refereed’ as they say).
To do this, you can use Google Scholar or the Web of Science, where you can type in your topic and search.
searching for papers, you may have to use keywords other than the exact
words in the topic listed, rearrange the words in the topic with search
terms like "or" or "and," or just use one key word from the topic (e. g.
searching just "vector-borne" instead of "vector-borne disease" will get
you more hits matching this topic).
great thing about using the Web of Science is that most of the papers
that come up during a search will be peer reviewed articles. This is not
the case for other search engines such as Lexis Nexis.
have found a paper that you want to explore in more detail, click the
title to see if there is an abstract. You can either "View Full
Text" if the option is available, or "MGetIt" to see if the article is
that doesn't work, open a new
window to the library webpage. You can get to many journal articles through the U of M library's online
journals page (http://www.lib.umich.edu/ejournals/).
Many papers will be available for download as a PDF.
Read the paper you choose from the results of your search, and answer
the questions below. You must read the full original research article, not just the
summary or abstract. If you can't tell if the source is the
original research, look for a "Methods" section. The original should
have one. Submit your answers in Canvas.
List of POSSIBLE Topics (i.e. you don't have to limit yourself to these
Genetically modified crops
POPULATION AND HEALTH:
Rates of change in global or regional population
Population's effect on environmental resources
Family Planning Programs around the world and their effectiveness
Population migrations from rural to urban areas and the effects on
Deteriorating water quality or pollution (microbial, bacterial, chemical
Oceans as a CO2 sink
Water vapor's role in global warming and cooling
Impacts of ocean currents on global climate
ENERGY AND CLIMATE:
Atmospheric effects of a specific energy source
Geographic patterns of energy consumption
Clean energy sources and technology (wind, solar, wave-driven,
Effects of climate change on a specific ecosystem (e. g. Arctic tundra,
Amazon rainforest, coral reefs, Northeastern temperate forests, etc.)
Ecotourism and or other sustainable development projects
Biodiversity changes in a specific ecosystem
Biodiversity and ecosystem function or ecosystem services
ASSIGNMENT (To be handed in on Canvas):
1) Cite the paper as a "journal article" as described in the
Investigate the source and justify that it is a scholarly, peer-reviewed source. For example, you can look up the name of the journal to get information about it. Write your justification in your answer. (2 points)
2) What question or hypothesis did the authors of the paper address? (2
3) How did the authors go about answering this question or testing their
hypothesis? (2 points)
4) What were the findings of the paper? (Look at the "Results" or
"Discussion" sections of the paper.) (2 points)
5) How does this paper relate to one of the broad topics discussed in "The Challenges We Face"? (1 point)
6) What do you think are the future environmental implications of the
findings of this paper? (1 point)
7) Download a PDF of the paper you read and submit that along with this write up.
Direct links (authentication through UM
Libraries may be required for access):
Part 2: Identifying fake news
We are awash in fake news, coming at us from all directions and through all media including traditional print and broadcast outlets as well as social media sites. The crux of the issue is, who can we trust? Friends, Congress members, celebrities, talk-show hosts, professors? There have been several careful studies on "trusting the media", and they tend to reach the same conclusion. The conclusion is that there are distinct patterns of "trust" associated with news outlets that are strongly correlated with political leanings (e.g., liberal, conservative).
Fortunately, there are several agreed upon approaches to the detection of fake news or BS, and several books and even University courses on the topic are now popping up. In lecture, a simple checklist to work through was described, and can be found here.
ASSIGNMENT (to be handed in on Canvas)
1) Find a fake news story related to global change or sustainability. Report where you found it and include a functional link. Describe how you found out it was fake. (1.5 points)
2) There are many ways in which a news story can be false. Generally, we can divide fake news in to 3 categories (see below). Which category does your news article apply to? Explain why.
Satire or parody (The Onion, Daily Mash, are both humorous sites)
Sloppy reporting that fits an agenda (uses some grains of truth that are not fully verified)
i. Misleading news that is sort of true but used the wrong context (cherry-picking facts)
ii. Fabricated to either make money or propaganda, to fit an agenda
iii. Misleading news that is not based on facts, but supports an on-going narrative (no baseline for truth, biased, conspiracy theories tend to fall here)
What you have to hand in on Canvas:
1) Follow all instructions in Part 1 and Part 2.
2) Submit one Word document with answers to all questions in Part 1 and Part 2.
3) Submit a pdf of your scientific peer-reviewed article.
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