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Harper Adams lecturer co-authors paper on questioning claims

Posted 28 August

“The article and website provide guidance for people to use to see how they can recognise a claim and make informed choices."

Farmers and others working in the agriculture sector are often provided with claims about products and management practices; for example, they may be told that a product is ‘100 per cent effective’, or ‘better because it is newer’.

However, it can be difficult to know when to question such claims.

A new website and commentary paper, which has included input from a Harper Adams University academic, provide a framework to help people think more critically about claims and decide whether information is trustworthy.

Principal Lecturer and Director of the Centre for Evidence Based Agriculture (CEBA) Nicola Randall has prepared the agricultural content for the website and co-authored the paper published in Nature, one of the most recognisable scientific journals in the world.

Dr Randall said: “The article and website provide guidance for people to use to see how they can recognise a claim and make informed choices.

“In regards to agriculture, you might get told that a product, for example a pesticide, is 100 per cent safe and effective. This paper shows how you should question this claim.

“It’s getting people to question whether the information they are given is fully accurate or misleading. In regards to pesticides, you might be told a new pesticide gets rid of everything that you wish to eliminate, but will it really do that? Could there be some resistance? Is it 100 per cent safe? Will there be negative effects on the environmental or beneficial invertebrates? In addition, are there potential health risks for the farmer spraying?

“The advice is not only applicable to farmers in the UK but around the world.

“The wider paper is about making informed choices generally and each individual researcher has suggestions for their specific field, be it medicine, education or agriculture.

“We hope that scientists and professionals in all fields will evaluate, use and comment on it.”

The agriculture-specific information can be found on the That's a Claim website. There's a printable poster for those who wish to think critically about agricultural claims by breaking down the questioning process into three steps: beware of claims; think ‘fair’ about the evidence; take care when you decide.

The Harper Adams University Centre for Evidence Based Agriculture works closely with decision-makers to show them how to make the most of existing research through evidence synthesis.

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