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A guide to asking for evidence
Not sure who or what to believe? You’re not alone! Every day we hear from celebrities, commentators, companies, organisations and politicians who tell us to change our lifestyle or buy a product, support a new policy or sign a petition.
If you’re not sure about something you’ve read or seen, why not #AskforEvidence?
Just ask! Your message doesn’t need to be long. It can be as simple as:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I was interested to [see/ read in/ hear] the claim [you/ your organisation/ your company] made that [insert claim here].
Please can you send me the evidence you have to support this claim?
I am asking as part of the Ask for Evidence campaign and will share the response I get publicly.
Seen an ad that sounds too good to be true? Curious about promises or claims made by a company or influencer? Why not email the company or influencer making the claim – or reach out to them on social media? Keep us in the loop via email email@example.com, on our Facebook page or Twitter @senseaboutsci using the hashtag #AskforEvidence.
Most websites will have a contact email or a form where you can ask your question. If you can’t find one, try phoning to ask for the best way to get in contact. If you're having trouble finding the right person to ask, or if you don't receive a reply, get in touch with us via email firstname.lastname@example.org, through our Facebook page or Twitter @senseaboutsci.
We’ve had lots of practice and we’re here to help!
We are all affected by decisions our local councillors, MPs, MEPs, and government bodies make. If you disagree with a decision, or just want to know more about how and why it was made, why not start by asking for evidence?
If you’re not sure who your local or national representative is, you can find out at WritetoThem. Just enter your postcode and you will receive all the names and contact info. There are guidelines on this site about how to write to your local reps too. Top tip: don’t forget to mention that you’re a constituent.
Seen an article you think is misleading or just plain wrong? Why not write to the journalist and ask to see their evidence? A newspaper or magazine should list individual journalists emails -- or at least a general one. Try the publication’s website first. Journalists are usually active on social media so you can also try contacting them there.
Have an issue with a headline? Here’s something you may not know: journalists often don’t write their headlines! Often that’s the sub-editor’s job. If you see a headline that is misleading or misinformed, write to the editor of the publication.
If it’s a health claim or promise, then ask about the science behind the claim: What kind of testing has been done (controlled, blinded tests; a clinical trial; lab studies on an ingredient)? What is the mechanism behind the science? Ask about the status of evidence for the claim: has the research been peer reviewed and published? Has it been replicated?
The answers to these questions should give you a good indication about whether the claims stack up. See the Understand Evidence section of this site for more tips on what's reliable evidence.
If it’s a social or policy claim or decision, ask to see the research or studies behind the decision.
To get a better idea of what to ask, and what to expect in response, read some of our Ask for Evidence Stories.
Get in touch, we’re here to help! We can even put you in touch with a scientist to help you understand the response you’ve received. Email us email@example.com or get in touch via our Facebook page or Twitter @senseaboutsci using the hashtag #AskforEvidence.
Yes! Check out our Ask for Evidence Stories to see the impact that asking for evidence can have. We want to make celebrities, commentators, companies, organisations and politicians take responsibility for the promises they make. If they want us to believe them, change our lifestyle or behaviour, buy their products or vote for them, then they should share the evidence they have to back up their claims and promises. If we all keep asking, then sharing and talking about evidence will become the norm.
The scientific process is impartial. You might begin a science experiment with a prediction of what will happen, but you don’t let your preconceptions affect the outcome. It’s good to have the same attitude when asking for evidence. Don’t let your own views stop you from listening; let whoever is making the claim have the chance to show you their evidence.
It’s just as important to applaud the good use of evidence as it is to hold those misusing evidence to account. So if you get a good answer, great! Please share that. If you get an answer you can’t understand or that doesn’t make sense, then please share that too. We’re here to help.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) works to make sure all advertising wherever it appears is legal, decent, honest and truthful. You can lodge a complaint on their website: https://www.asa.org.uk/make-a-complaint.html
The UK’s independent fact checking charity
IPSO are the independent regulator of most of the UK's newspapers and magazines.