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Launching the Skeptical Science Fellowship

Posted on 28 September 2021 by John Cook

We are delighted to announce the launch of the Skeptical Science Fellowship. This is a program that provides training and mentoring in climate communication and debunking misinformation. Anyone who completes the program will be listed as a Skeptical Science Fellow.


How to qualify for the Fellowship

To qualify, you need a single qualification - completion of our Massive Open Online Course, Making Sense of Climate Science Denial (Denial101x). This is a free online course developed by the Skeptical Science team with the University of Queensland, that delves into the psychology of climate science denial and how to debunk misinformation. While there is a lot of valuable information throughout the six week course, of most relevance is Week 6 which explains the principles of effective debunking. You'll need to internalise these principles and apply them during the Fellowship.

Once you've completed 80% of the course's assessment, you've officially passed the course and you can apply to start the SkS Fellowship via our google form.

How to complete the Fellowship

Completing the Fellowship is simple in principle. In order to become a Skeptical Science Fellow, you just need to do one thing - publish a rebuttal on Skeptical Science. Sounds simple, right? Well, there's a little more to it than that. First, we mean all three levels of rebuttal: basic, intermediate, and advanced. The basic rebuttal is a short, plain language version less than 1000 words, written at around year 10 level. The intermediate rebuttal is longer, between 1000 to 2000 words, and written at around a year 12 level. The advanced rebuttal is longer than 2000 words and can be written at higher than year 12 level (but don't go nuts, we still want it to be readable).

Your rebuttal needs to follow the principles of debunking outlined in the Denial101x MOOC. For example, they should fit the Fact-Myth-Fallacy format, communicating a core fact that dislodges the myth and explaining the fallacy that the myth uses to distort the facts. Unfortunately many of the rebuttals in Skeptical Science were written before we produced Denial101x and don't follow debunking best practices. This is one of the reasons for the Fellowship - to gradually upgrade our rebuttals not just with updated content but also improved communication techniques.

In 2020, I also created a new video series on how to debunk misinformation, which I would also recommend viewing to help complete the fellowship. These videos were created for a graduate class I taught at George Mason University, which culminated in the students writing and publishing a number of rebuttals on Skeptical Science.

So this means you have two choices - you can either write a new rebuttal or revise an existing rebuttal (updating the content with new studies while improving the structure of the rebuttal to better match debunking best practices). We can help with this choice, discussing which Skeptical Science rebuttals are most out-of-date (as well as which get the most traffic) or which climate myths are yet to be addressed. A third option is to complete a rebuttal which isn't available at all three levels yet - sometimes the Advanced or even Basic versions aren't written yet.

You're not on your own during the rebuttal writing process. I'm available to mentor you through how to structure debunkings, make your science stickier, and identify the reasoning fallacies in misinformation. The critical thinking element is often the most foreign aspect for people involved in science communication so it's something that usually needs thought and discussion. The Skeptical Science team is also available for feedback and questions.

Your rebuttal will also need to pass the internal review process at Skeptical Science. This means the SkS team will scrutinise your rebuttals, offer feedback, and once you've gained approval from the reviewers, your rebuttal will get published. Once you've completed and published all three levels of the rebuttal, you will become a Skeptical Science Fellow!

Introducing our first Skeptical Science Fellow

We're very pleased to announce our first Skeptical Science Fellow: Dr. Emma Kahle. Emma did a sterling job in debunking the myth "CO2 lags temperature", which was a communication challenge given the complex science of how Milankovitch cycles drive climate change in different parts of our climate. She completed a PhD in climate science at the University of Washington, analysing data from ice cores to understand past climate change - so her choice of climate myth was very relevant to her own work.

So how to get started?

If you're interested in becoming a Skeptical Science Fellow, first, start the free Denial101x course. Once you've completed that course, you can sign up for the Fellowship via this google form.

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