Tracing error and contested claims – Work Package 2

WP2 traces error and controversial claims in nanobiology over time and is presented in this post.

The project is organised in five closely connected work packages, each involving all the PIs to guarantee maximum synergy. WP1 creates a corpus of sources mapping nanobiology and its community and is described here. WP3 analyses attempts at correction and includes actual attempts at correction and improved communication to discourage error propagation and encourage correction in the future, see here. WP4 analyses processes that impede or facilitate correction and investigates how scientists trust research results, as well as how this trust can be enhanced; it is presented here. A fifth work package is devoted to project organisation and integration.

Using the corpus of data collected in WP1, this WP combines digital and qualitative methods to trace and analyse controversial claims and counter-claims. This multi-method analysis will investigate key arenas of formal and informal scientific communication (including journals, conferences and social media), and their connections to research policy and wider media. Specific tasks are:

  • Citation analysis, including a study of negative citation: an identification of landmark papers in nanobiology at the source of controversial claims, and following how these claims were cited. This task will elaborate novel methodologies that goes beyond citations positive vs negative citation.
  • Case studies of controversial claims in nanobio based on qualitative interviews of key actors, informed by the citation analysis: deepening and triangulating the scientometric analysis, key scientists will be interviewed to assess how claims have spread and been received by the community. The qualitative study will elaborate on earlier patterns identified in nanotechnology.
  • A detailed study of crucial conferences in nanobio: analysis of how claims are presented and move between conferences and textual formats such as journals or social media, given the crucial importance of conferences as an arena where claims are articulated and challenged.
  • Tracing concepts and claims textually across the scientific literature and other media: follow claims into wider media and the public arena, including newspapers and magazines; study changes and shifts in claims as they are passed on to these forums, building on earlier work about the presentation of uncertainty or metaphor in these wider forms of communication.
  • Tracing promises and claims as they inform research policy: study of how claims are presented in policy documents and research funding, in particular in the EU and US, including private funding.

Main outcomes and synergies

bibliometric and qualitative analysis of how nanobio claims spread, closer analysis of the hype and correction logic, including its discursive patterns.

Risk assessment

We may find no traces or very few traces of errors’ effects. That would be a result by itself. 2) Fail to understand the reasons for error propagation. This risk is limited because NanoBubbles will benefit from complementary skills (STS, Nano, CS) to reach a fine-grained understanding of the interaction of aspects of the error propagation process.


Cyrus Mody is the lead PI of this WP.

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