Fake News, Evidence Ignored and Knowledge Dismissed

We cannot fail to notice, both professionally and personally, the discussions taking place about information, evidence and knowledge.  How information is used, misinformation shared, known evidence dismissed and knowledge withheld.

One example of fake news was described on Newsnight on August 23rd 2017*. An American travelled 500 miles with a rifle to “self-investigate” a pizza restaurant where an alleged paedophile ring operated and kept under-age children against their will. This news had been reported widely in print and on social media. The source of this news was an investigation into the emails of Hillary Clinton’s personal campaign manager. It was reported that the emails contained the words “cheese pizza” which were thought to be code for “child p-graphy”. The two words shared the same initial letters: c and p. Three shots were fired in the restaurant, there were no under-age children being held and thankfully no-one was hurt.

As we can see from the fake news story, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” (itself a misquote from the poet Alexander Pope) but knowledge can also empower us, enable us to say “no”, to achieve, to understand, to form judgements and to make decisions.

We work every day to collect and supply information, signpost evidence and ensure knowledge is mobilised and used in our organisations.  We enable evidence to be used in decision-making, we support the growth of knowledge rich organisations as well as delivering training to help staff critically appraise or discern the usefulness and validity of information. It is that learnt skill that enables wise choices and the avoidance of “fake news”, or in our terms, weak evidence.

But we also need to turn the spotlight on ourselves and ask ourselves questions too.

How do we use information, evidence and knowledge? What is the weak evidence that we use to justify our policies and practices? What are the knowledge needs, preferences and behaviours of the healthcare staff, students, patients and public who use our services? To help us understand these knowledge needs and preferences, two librarians in the South have created a bulletin for us to use.  Please read the bulletin, critically appraise what is included and collectively and individually let’s constructively challenge one another to ensure that facts matter, evidence is crucial and knowledge enables good decisions to be made.

The bulletin will be produced four times a year in September, November, January and March. It will be circulated via your library and knowledge services leads, so look out for the September edition due very soon.

Sue Robertson
Knowledge Services Development Lead (South)

* Eugene Robinson. Newsnight. 23rd August 2017 https://subsaga.com/bbc/news/newsnight/2017/08/23.html

 

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