In the next Perspectives on Science seminar, Luca Ausili and Carlo Martini (Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan) will give a talk on “Demarcation for Dummies: Using epistemology and experiments to contrast scientific disinformation“.

The seminar takes place in hybrid format in person and online via Zoom from 14:15 to 15:45 on Monday the 3rd of April 2023. To join the seminar, please contact for the location or Zoom invitation.

Perspectives on Science is a weekly research seminar which brings together experts from science studies and philosophy of science. It is organized by TINT – Centre for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. More information about the seminar here.


The problem of demarcation, i.e., the distinction between science and pseudoscience, is an age-old problem, but the connection between disinformation and pseudoscience has not been sufficiently explored.

Demarcation is a complex concept, and the goal is to make it understandable to the people it affects the most, the ones without specialised knowledge. Demarcation and disinformation ought to be explainable as issues for dummies – i.e., for people who are not initiated to the complexities of the scientific method, and who might have a general school education at most. 

In this paper we aim to improve on the design of current social science experimentation in the field of disinformation by providing an additional focus on scientific disinformation in experimental research, and by providing an epistemological foundation to experiments aimed at studying and counteracting disinformation. The paper is divided into two sections, a theoretical one, and an experimental one.

The theoretical section of the paper addresses the problem of scientific disinformation, defined as a type of disinformation that is supported by pseudoscience, pseudo-evidence, or pseudo-experts (Panizza et al. 2022, Martini 2023). 

The second part of the paper uses the theoretical discussion about the distinction between science and pseudoscience, as well as modern version of the principle of demarcation, in order to conduct an epistemically informed experiment on the ability of young adults to spot disinformation about science (cf. McGrew et al. 2018). We are conducting a randomized controlled field experiment (lab-in-the-field) with 43 Italian institutes of secondary education. The design is a between subjects design (N > 2000) where students are tested in a simulated digital environment (designed on on their ability to recognize scientific disinformation after an intervention based on a combination of the COR – Civic Online Reasoning approach (Breakstone et al. 2022) the Cognitive Biases approach (Pennycook and Rand 2021), and the Inoculation approach (Lewandowski & Van Der Linden 2021). All intervention groups will be compared to a control group. The experimental protocol is pre-registered and based on the Open Science Framework. 

Author bios:

Luca Ausili is a PhD student at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan and is currently doing a visiting period at the University of Helsinki. His research areas include social epistemology, the relation between science and society, and the problem of scientific disinformation.

Carlo Martini is Associate Professor in Philosophy of Science at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University (Milan). He has worked on the interface between science and policy, scientific expertise, and science communication. He is leader of the work package “Behavioral Tools for Building Trust” in the H2020 Project “Policy, Expertise and Trust” (