The #ScienceUpFirst campaign was designed to help individuals make educated health decisions by providing, supporting, and amplifying correct scientific information.
Over four million people have died as a result of COVID worldwide, with over 34 million cases and over 610,000 deaths in the United States alone.
Worse, the pandemic does not appear to be nearing its end.
COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths have increased recently, primarily among those who are either entirely unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
The fact that immunizations are still effective against the Delta version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID, which is now the prevalent strain in the United States, makes this all the more unfortunate.
We recognize that persons who choose not to be vaccinated do so for a variety of reasons and concerns.
Some people are unable to be immunized due to medical issues, while others live in underserved areas and wish to be vaccinated but have restricted access.
At the same time, we are aware that COVID-related health disinformation and conspiracy theories are widespread.
They cause serious harm to the public’s health.
They’ve been related to a lower likelihood of following public health advice like wearing masks, and they can impact health decisions like whether or not to acquire COVID immunizations.
Many harmful myths about COVID have circulated on social media, including that the disease can spread through 5G mobile networks (viruses cannot travel through radio waves or mobile networks); that mRNA vaccines can change your DNA (nope, that’s not how they work); and that COVID vaccines can negatively affect fertility in women or men (no evidence for this claim).
In this line, health misinformation can contribute to vaccination hesitancy, which is identified as one of the top ten dangers to world health by the World Health Organization.
In the context of COVID, that threat becomes very evident and very immediate.
Vaccine hesitation might jeopardize the goal of herd immunity, which is critical to ending the pandemic, now that vaccination campaigns are beginning.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are both worried enough about vaccination hesitancy to finance and advocate for it, and the World Health Organization has labeled the spread of disinformation online as an “infodemic.”
There is a pressing need to make sure that trustworthy, evidence-based information is as readily available, copious, and accessible as misinformation, and that it spreads as swiftly online.
That is why the #ScienceUpFirst campaign was created: to provide, support, and promote correct scientific information online to assist people in making educated health decisions.
EVIDENCE-BASED PUBLIC HEALTH PROMOTION
The #ScienceUpFirst effort began when Timothy Caulfield, a public health expert, and Senator Stanley Kutcher of Nova Scotia gathered a Canadian coalition of scientists, communicators, and health experts to empower people to work together to combat misinformation regarding COVID and COVID vaccines.
The #ScienceUpFirst team is made up of individuals from various Canadian universities and organizations.
The project is operationally supported by the Canadian Association of Science Centers, COVID-19 Resources Canada, and the University of Alberta’s Health Law Institute.
The bilingual campaign employs the hashtags #ScienceUpFirst and #LaScienceDAbord on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, among other social media platforms.
In short, #ScienceUpFirst is a social media campaign that promotes and amplifies the finest accessible science-based content to dispel misinformation.
The campaign’s primary purpose is to use evidence-based guidelines to combat disinformation and conspiracy theories around COVID and COVID vaccines.
The methodology will eventually be used to combat other sorts of health and science-related disinformation, such as climate change and mental health, in addition to the COVID pandemic.
The campaign accomplishes two goals on social media:
It looks for, evaluates, and promotes existing, evidence-based information to get people to share and amplify it on social media.
This, in turn, necessitates efforts to adjust material so that it reflects and speaks to a wide range of sociodemographic groups.
It gathers data from community partners, followers, and other official data sources to identify the most relevant and current content.
It then develops visually appealing, scientifically correct, and easily digestible content, which is verified before being put on the campaign’s social media platforms.
WORKS TO DEBUNK MISINFORMATION
It is well worth the time and effort to correct misconceptions.
Debunking works and can be effective when done right, according to research.
When designing a message to fight disinformation, this entails employing evidence-based techniques.
These include, but are not limited to, giving science, employing clear and shareable information, referring to reliable sources, emphasizing scientific consensus and its evolution, adding narrative and tale, starting with facts, being polite and authentic, and highlighting logic and rhetorical strategies.
HOW DO I GET INVOLVED?
The #ScienceUpFirst movement is not a one-time event; it is a continuous, participatory endeavor aimed at engaging and informing the general public.
With #ScienceUpFirst, users can help amplify evidence-based information and counter myths in three ways:
Follow @ScienceUpFirst on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tik Tok, and use the hashtags #ScienceUpFirst and #LaScienceDAbord to interact with and share content.
On all social media channels, tag @ScienceUpFirst in COVID science-based and disinformation messages.
Find curated, shareable COVID information and resources from some of our community partners at www.ScienceUpFirst.com.
The project began at the end of January and has now accumulated over 40,000 posts from over 30,000 people with a total social media following of 260 million.
It is the ethical responsibility of health professionals and scientists to promote and practice evidence-based patient care and public health.
Calling out and correcting misconceptions online via science communication on social media is a part of that purpose.
While the #ScienceUpFirst movement is based in Canada, health misinformation and propaganda, especially on social media, know no borders.
We invite everyone in the United States and throughout the world to join us.
the author is Jonathan N. Stea, Ph.D., R. Psych, is a registered and practicing clinical psychologist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Calgary. Clinically, he specializes in the assessment and treatment of concurrent addictive and psychiatric disorders. Follow him on Twitter