UW Today

February 6, 2017

‘Overwhelming’ response, global press attention for new UW Information School course, ‘Calling BS’

News and Information

It’s almost unheard-of for a university class to spark global press attention — and offers of book deals — before instruction even begins. But such is the case with the UW Information School’s new course, “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data.”

The class was proposed by Information School assistant professor Jevin West and biology professor Carl Bergstrom, and has been approved as a one-credit special topics seminar for about 150 students in spring quarter, which starts on March 27.

“The response has been overwhelming. It seems to have struck a chord across the world,” said West. “We had tens of thousands of users to the class website in just a few days of releasing the course.”

West told the Seattle Times the course webpage went live at midnight on Jan. 11. “We woke up the next morning and it was all over the whole planet. I’ve never seen anything like it … the response has been insane.”

Bergstrom and West say they hope to expand to a 3- or 4-credit class in the 2017-2018 school year. Those not enrolled will be able to watch as well; the two say they will have the lectures videotaped and made freely available on the internet.

West said, “It has clearly struck a chord with hundreds of thousands of people around the world.”

The course’s brief description, atop the syllabus online, is as blunt and compelling as its title: “Our world is saturated with bullshit,” it says. “Learn to detect and defuse it.”

Read recent coverage:

Seattle Times: UW class on how to spot fake data goes viral within hours

The Chronicle of Higher Education: The fine art of sniffing out crappy science

NPR Morning Edition: It’s getting harder to sort out truth from fiction

KOMO radio: University of Washington could offer course in ‘BS’

KING 5: UW Professors’ data class goes viral 

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