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I haven't found a detailed study of this, but here would be an example. If people shared a site that talked about the dangers of global warming, but wasn't peer reviewed, does this increase awareness, or does it actually give more credibility to global warming denial sites, since they are on equal footing, both being non peer reviewed? A global warming denialist argument is that a debate still exists (it doesn't), which has been good enough to cause skepticism and lack of action.

I know sites generally have incentives to get their articles or videos shared, so they would rather make their own summaries of scientific results, rather than just link to proper references. But pseudoscience sites can also reference peer reviewed sources, they just give their own interpretations of them. But why should anyone believe one site over another, since the standards for credibility are gone (which all of these sites perpetuate, pseudoscience or not)?

Or is it the case that non peer reviewed sites draw attention to issues in a way peer reviewed sources don't, and while there may be some collateral damage with lowering of standards, people are being swayed by pseudoscience sites either way?

So the main question is, has sharing non peer reviewed sites caused more damage than good in combating pseudoscience (including this site)?

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if this can be answered in a strict scientific way, because how could anyone reliably test what influenced a certain person. If you ask me, most people became aware of global warming from the news, not from peer-reviewed articles. $\endgroup$ – Jan Jan 7 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Jan Yes they probably became initially aware from the news. This question is more how sharing internet sources later influence people one way or another. I would think it would involves studies on groups of people moreso than individuals. Like say social media usage increased in an area, and beliefs in pseudoscience increased. Or maybe a group is taught proper referencing, and belief in pseudoscience decreased, including amongst those connected to them. Controlling for the right things, and finding causation beyond correlation would be challenging I would think. $\endgroup$ – user23575 Jan 7 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ The only thing I can imagine they can do in research is making surveys, which are sometimes used in collecting data. They would ask people "Where did you hear this?" or "Do you believe this source (peer-reviewed) more than this (non-reviewed)?" The results of such surveys would just give you some statistics about what people believe more, not what is the actual influence of different information sources. I mean, how reliable would be the results of such surveys for you? $\endgroup$ – Jan Jan 7 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Jan Yes I agree survey data would need to be collected on what people believe, if that's the best way (maybe this information can be garnered by how people vote on certain issues, or on what they buy, etc...). But then these results can be compared to what types of sites are shared on these people's social media accounts. Or something like that. I'm not sure the best way to figure this out, but I would think there should be a way to get a better idea of what the sharing of non peer reviewed sites has done for belief in science or not. $\endgroup$ – user23575 Jan 7 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Jan Maybe there could be a study showing that with the advent of social media in general, belief in pseudoscience has increased. Has the internet made people more informed or more misinformed? Many such questions to ask. I don't really know the answers. $\endgroup$ – user23575 Jan 7 at 18:21

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