Susan Swanberg

Susan Swanberg, U.of A.

Wednesday, July 24, 2:30-3:30, Arizona Senior Academy Building

Disinformation is false information spread deliberately to deceive. History establishes that well before the advent of modern mass communications and digital media, confusing and erroneous messages about science were disseminated to the public. For example, the 19th-century slogan, “rain follows the plow” is the conventional phrase for a now-discredited theory of climatology that was popular throughout the American West. The basic premise of the theory was that human habitation and agriculture through homesteading effected a permanent change in the climate of arid and semi-arid regions, making these regions more humid.  Climatologists have refuted the theory, and it is now regarded as pure superstition and disinformation.

Dr. Susan Swanberg, a former criminal lawyer and geneticist, is now assistant professor at the University of Arizona School of Journalism.  She will discuss how and why erroneous messages about science spread and how we can tell fake science news from real science news. Her presentation will explore the history of science communication and highlight contemporary theories of scientific communication, showing their significance to 21st-century science journalists and the public. She will include many past and current examples of science disinformation and their influence on society.

Susan Swanberg earned her J.D. at the University of Oregon School of Law and her Ph.D. in genetics at the University of California, Davis. Her science research focused on telomere biology (the sections of DNA occurring at the ends of a chromosome that serve to stabilize it) and autism genetics. Her journalism research includes the history of science and the environment, the public understanding of science, and the intersection of law, science and journalism. Her most recent projects examine the impact of propaganda, disinformation, and misinformation on science and environmental journalism.

Written by Carol and Donald Gilzinger, Academy Village Volunteers


July 24: “The Impact of Disinformation on Science and Journalism”