'Calling BS' wins Knight Foundation grant to fight misinformation

Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom
Jevin West (left) and Carl Bergstrom

“Calling Bullshit” is getting a boost. The project led by the Information School’s Jevin West and Biology Professor Carl Bergstrom, will expand its reach, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Knight Foundation.

In response to an open call for ideas to improve the accurate flow of information, West and Bergstrom proposed “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Fake News.” For their project, they will develop a curriculum and set of tools to teach students and the public to better assess quantitative information and combat misinformation, with an emphasis on data, visualization and statistics.

The project puts a journalism spin on the duo’s “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data” class. First offered as a 1-credit seminar this past spring, the class filled within one minute of opening for registration and garnered media attention from across the country. It will be offered again as a 3-credit course in the fall.

“Most of our efforts so far have been in designing a BS curriculum for undergraduates, but there is a real need to customize this content for groups outside the ivory tower,” West said. “This support from the Knight Foundation will allow us to customize the content for high school students, journalists and the broader public.”

“Calling Bullshit” is among 20 projects that will receive a share of $1 million through the Knight Prototype Fund, a program focused on iterative and human-centered approaches to solving difficult problems. The selected projects are aimed at combating the spread of misinformation online and increasing trust in journalism.

The nonprofit Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism, guided by the belief that a well-informed public can best determine its interests and is essential for democracy.