Two Churchill Fellows are part of a team that has been awarded the prestigious Brouwer Prize from the Royal Holland Society of Sciences, which recognises individuals or organisations that promote social coherence and people’s trust in society by means of a scientific or social initiative.

Churchill By-Fellow, Dr Jon Roozenbeek, worked with DROG, a group of academics, journalists and media-experts, to develop Bad News, an online game in which players compete to become a ‘disinformation and fake news tycoon’. The hope with the game is that is acts like a ‘vaccine’, increasing scepticism of fake news by giving people a ‘weak dose’ of the methods behind disinformation.

The project was done in collaboration with the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab, where Churchill Fellow Dr Sander van der Linden is Director. He commented, ‘It is has been a truly exceptional collaboration, particularly in terms of translating basic scientific research into real-world impact. It’s an honour for the whole initiative to be recognized with this generous award’. To date, more than a million users have played the game and it has already been translated into many languages in collaboration with the UK Foreign Office.

Marlies Veldhuijzen van Zanten-Hyllner, former Dutch State Secretary for Health, Welfare, and Sport (2010–12) said that the jury was ‘impressed by the scientific basis of the project. With the Brouwer Confidence Prize, the initiative can further develop and spread, and thus cause a “step-change” in the scaling up of both the principle of “psychological vaccination” (also in other areas) and this specific application for resilience against intentional disinformation on the internet (fake news)’.

Ruurd Oosterwoud, the founder of DROG said, ‘We are incredibly proud that the KHMW has declared us the winner. The prize money will be used to broach new social themes, to tap into new areas of research, and to come up with new interventions. We want to continue to use the game to strengthen mutual trust in society. Disinformation, manipulation and deception will always be present. By developing new scenarios, we can continue to use our game in the most effective way and make people aware.’