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Erasmus University Rotterdam

Deception Detox - using research methods and statistics to change the world

Erasmus University Rotterdam via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


This course will help you become scientifically literate so that you can make better choices for yourself and the world. Unlike other courses on statistics and scientific methods, we explore global challenges - such as poverty or climate change - and then discuss how key approaches of statistics and scientific methods can help tackle these challenges. We present these approaches in a non-mathematical and easily accessible way. You will leave the course being able to recognize which efforts to do good in this world actually work, and you will have used your science literacy to make some personal changes in your life.

Many current attempts to do good in this world are based on good intentions, but don’t work well, or are even harmful. In this course we talk to leading experts from academia, business and non-profit organizations about how we can use science to distinguish bad, good and even better ways of improving this world. We also invite you to change your own behavior to do more good. You will learn how to spot BS (bad science) in the media, how to evaluate whether a social program works or not, and how your career could have a better impact on this world. Finally, you will develop your own plan on how you are going to do good better with science.

Guest speakers include Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely, Philosopher Peter Singer, and Happiness researcher Elizabeth Dunn.


Science literacy as a vaccine against the charlatans
We kick off this course by providing some ammunition for what the astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson said: ”Science literacy is a vaccine against the charlatans of the world that would exploit your ignorance.” Here, you will discover that you should be wary of the recommendations that you get from our governments on how to save water, from the media based on new scientific findings, and even from our doctor. At the same time, you will see that a basic understanding of statistics and scientific methods - which you will acquire throughout this course - will protect you against misinformation and bad science, and help you make better choices for yourself and for this world. At the end of this week you will create and upload a short 3-minute video pitch about global challenges and what your own role is in tackling them (if any). Please note that Erasmus University Rotterdam pursues the science of learning. Online learners are important participants in that pursuit. The information we gather from your engagement with our instructional offerings makes it possible for faculty, researchers, and designers to continuously improve their work and, in that process, build learning science. By registering as an online learner, you are also participating in research.

Stop guessing!
"Whenever you leave behind failure, that means you're doing better. If you think everything you've done has been great, you're probably dumb." – Louis CK. Many social programs - such as efforts to reduce poverty or improve people’s health - are based on good intentions but simply don’t work, or are even harmful. This week you will discover that humans are pretty bad at guessing which programs work, and that the best way to assess whether a program works is by running randomized controlled trials. You will see that conducting multiple rigorous evaluations is how we can leave behind failure and do better in this world. And not be dumb. At the end of this week you’ll be ready to put your new skills to use by critically assessing a BS (bad science) media report.

Putting it all together

Yes but wait

You have watched many videos that we made on tackling global challenges with science. Now it’s time to create your own video on how you are going to tackle a global challenge with science.

Taught by

Vera Schölmerich and Kellie Liket


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