Fact-Checking Your Facts: Why it is Important
Finding the truth is not always easy, but it is easy to take a quoted scientific study at face value. After all, the person quoting the study must know that particular study and the field they are discussing, right? However, people may take a quote out of context, use only part of a quote or blatantly misquote to support their point.
Reading information where the author quoted a known expert:
I once received a letter where the author quoted a paper that was remarkably easy to find on the internet and quickly found in the abstract of the paper. Even in that context, it was apparent that the author had misquoted the original paper, but it wasn’t until I read the entire paper that I realized how severely the intent of the original paper had been intentionally misconstrued.
Finding an overwhelming body of evidence supporting a position:
Studies are often quoted by people who support opposing arguments. To test my point, I tracked down a memorable study and found that the opposing argument only stood up where a list of particular conditions existed. I was so perplexed by the poor reporting of the research (in so many places) that I went so far as finding the researcher and speaking to him directly. He confirmed that I had read the paper correctly and that their findings are often misquoted by proponents who have no other evidence to support their case.
With these two examples, my advice is to be wary of what you hear and read, even if it appears to be supported by science. If an important decision is based on the information, dig a little deeper because many research papers are easy to access on the internet. Search a browser using keywords, or if you know the research title or author, search for it directly. Also, search to see if there are more recent studies done in your field of interest.
Advances in many areas of science are expanding every day, so ensure you’re up-to-date!
Sonja Mitchell is passionate about the future of agriculture, with all of its challenges. She has a Master in Rural Management and a Master of Business Administration, as well as adult education qualifications. Sonja has worked in all functions of the industry, from regulatory affairs, sales, marketing and advocacy. She currently works with the Australia and New Zealand marketing teams as the “voice” of Dow AgroSciences – writing technical material, editorials and developing tech transfer assets across the business (crop protection, seeds and Sentricon). Sonja lives regionally within the Australian wheat belt and in her spare time loves outdoor activities with her husband and sons.