COVID-19 was the first pandemic that occurred besides internet interconnection. Thus, the spread of ideas and information about the disease is unprecedented-; But it is not always accurate. One of the widely circulated headlines was the relationship between land change and the spread of diseases from wildlife to humans. Writing biology, Andre D. Mader of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and colleagues survey primary and secondary literature, as well as web page content on the topic of land change and zoonoses risk. Based on patterns from this literature and media coverage, Madir and colleagues describe what amounts to a case study of inappropriate scientific communication and its potential consequences.
According to the authors, media messages consistently described a direct causal relationship between the prevalence of zoonoses and land-use change, despite the fact that only 53% of the peer-reviewed literature surveyed made this association. The authors delve into theoretical scenarios that would prove difficult to track the true risk of zoonotic disease spread, emphasizing that “the complexity of pathogen responses to land change cannot be reduced to a one-size-fits-all”.
The authors found that as the literature moves from primary search to review articles and commentaries, and finally to web pages, ‘evidence exaggeration’ increases, with 78% of secondary papers citing an association of land-use and animal use prevalence and all but one. Sampled web pages that make this link. The authors also note that secondary sources and web pages often fail to report the uncertainty associated with their conclusions.
The potential consequences of simplistic messaging and a lack of appropriate communication regarding zoonoses can weaken credibility, neglect specific community needs when it comes to policy making, and distract attention from other factors that can lead to the spread of zoonoses, Mader and colleagues say. The authors recommend a more accurate, accurate, and explanatory publication of studies on the risks of animal spread, arguing that such an approach would also benefit science more broadly. As the authors conclude, “If the goal of scientific communication is to improve understanding, it must strike a balance: enough simplicity that it can be accommodated by the largest possible audience but enough nuance to capture the complexity of an issue and to contribute meaningfully to a discussion about it, especially when it spreads rapidly.” “.