Trusting Science and Russian Trolls

Co-founder of comes to UO


The UO-sponsored events on March 10 and 11 featuring Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson are cancelled. Considering CDC advisories for older adults and those with compromised immune systems, the organizers feel it is in the best interest to reschedule this particular set of events for a later date. We apologize for any inconvenience these cancelations may cause you.


Whether Russia influenced the 2016 election and why trust in science has decreased may seem like very separate topics. And they are.

But Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, will speak about the topics at two talks at the University of Oregon on March 10 and 11.

Jamieson is the cofounder of, and she is an accomplished researcher and professor on communication in politics and science who has written or co-written 16 books. In January 2020, the National Academy of Sciences announced she will receive the Public Welfare Medal, the highest honor it awards, for her “non-partisan crusade” to improve science communication and discourse.

Ellen Peters, UO journalism professor and director of the Center for Scientific Communication Research (SCR), invited Jamieson to speak. While Jamieson was unavailable for an interview with Eugene Weekly before her visit due to overseas travel, Peters has worked with Jamieson on and off for years. “She’s a colleague and friend,” she says.

“We’re interested in leading cutting edge science communication research that ultimately leads to more evidence-based decisions,” Peters says. “And she is just a fantastic exemplar of that.” Jamieson’s first talk is called “Russian Hackers, Trolls and #DemocracyRIP.” It is co-sponsored by SCR and the UO Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics and will focus on Jamieson’s analysis of Russian interference in the 2016 election through social media. It is based on her 2018 book Cyber Wars, Peters says. “Understanding what has happened,” Peters says, “may help us in terms of controlling the future of that. And we should be educated on the issues.”

The next day, Jamieson will deliver the annual Richard W. and Laurie Johnston Lecture for the UO School of Journalism and Communication, titled “Communicating the Trustworthiness of Science.” It’s sponsored by the SCR and co-sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center and the Knight Campus.

“We use science all the time. We don’t even think about it as science sometimes,” Peters says. Most Americans — 86 percent — are at least fairly confident that scientists act in the public interest, according to a 2019 Pew survey, but it reveals a partisan divide: Only 27 percent of Republicans express high confidence in scientists, compared to 43 percent of Democrats.

“If we are suddenly finding that science is becoming less trustworthy, or less trustworthy to a segment of our population, then that’s an issue,” Peters says. “And so if we can better understand what are the factors that are involved in building trust and the breakdown of trust, then it hopefully will help us to figure out how to build that trust back up so that each of us as individuals, but also as a society, can lead better quality and longer lives.”

Though the topics Jamieson will speak about are very different, Peters says, “Both of these talks are about central issues in American life.”

Peters expects mostly UO students and faculty to attend the events, but they’re free to the public as well.

“We hope that people come, they listen, they learn, they ask questions, they talk with other people afterwards,” she adds. “Lectures are not isolated events. The hope is that the knowledge goes out and gets disseminated and that people argue it, and they learn from it, and they go out and seek out more information if they have questions.”

People may not agree with everything Jamieson says, but that’s the point, Peters says.

“They should question and they should have further conversations about it afterwards,” she says. “So that in the end the lecture is just the first step to something bigger and better.”

“Russian Hackers, Trolls and #DemocracyRIP” will be 7 to 8:30 pm March 10 in room 175 at the William W. Knight Law Center, 1515 Agate Street.
“Communicating the Trustworthiness of Science” will be 5 to 7 pm March 11 in the Redwood Auditorium at Erb Memorial Union, 1395 University Street.
Both talks are free. Organizers plan a livestream of the events for those worried about COVID-19.