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Feb 12, 2024 Essay
Polio vaccine misinformation on social media: challenges, efforts, and recommendations

by Muhammad Ittefaq, Shafiq Ahmad Kamboh, Carina M. Zelaya and Rauf Arif

On April 22, 2019, false rumors regarding the side effects of the polio vaccine quickly spread across various social media platforms, including Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), WhatsApp, and YouTube. This rapid spread of misinformation had a detrimental impact on Pakistan's efforts to eradicate polio. This essay sheds lights on two critical aspects related to polio vaccine misinformation on social media in Pakistan. First, it examines the current state of polio vaccine misinformation on social media and finds it a significant threat to public health, resulting in vaccine refusals, erosion of trust in public health institutions, distrust in science, and providing opportunities for anti-vaccination groups and individual advocates to target healthcare workers involved in polio eradication efforts nationwide. Second, it highlights the collaborative initiatives undertaken by relevant government institutions and social media companies, which have proven inadequate in effectively addressing the persistent dissemination of mis/disinformation, particularly on Facebook. Lastly, we suggest Pakistan should adopt a more inclusive approach of engaging all stakeholders, promote independent fact-checking initiatives, and increase health literacy among the target population about the risks and benefits associated with the polio vaccine.

Volume 23 • Issue 01 • 2024

Jan 29, 2024 Review Article
Confronting misinformation related to health and the environment: a systematic review

by Thaiane Oliveira, Nicolas de Oliveira Cardoso, Wagner de Lara Machado, Reynaldo Aragon Gonçalves, Rodrigo Quinan, Eduarda Zorgi Salvador, Camila Almeida and Aline Paes

Confronting misinformation related to health and the environment comprises one of the major global concerns. Therefore, this systematic literature review, aims to identify the most used strategies to confront misinformation related to health, and the environment. The relevance of the interventions was assessed considering the frequency with which they are used and reported as effective. Five widely used databases were searched between 2010 and 2021 (Web of Science, Scopus, PsycINFO, Science Direct, IEEE Xplore). A total of 14.285 records were initially retrieved. Then, after applying inclusion and exclusion criteria, 32 peer-reviewed papers were included and analyzed in depth through this review. The results indicate that interventions based on credible information (debunking) were the most used among the included studies, followed by exposure and correction (debunking), inoculation, information, and media literacy (prebunking), and deliberation prompts (nudging). Most {interventions had }an effect size between small and medium, but most effects are limited to a specific myth/belief. We also found that most studies are conducted in the U.S. Therefore, experimental replication with same and different beliefs as outcomes and interventions cross-cultural adaptation to other countries are recommended.

Volume 23 • Issue 01 • 2024

Jan 22, 2024 Practice Insight
Engaging young people in science communication about mental health during COVID-19

by Signe Herbers Poulsen, Nina Maindal, Kristian Dahlmann Oddershede, Mathias Sejerkilde, Stine Breiner Pedersen, Manizha Haghju, Emma MacLean Sinclair, Anne Harrits, Ulrik Bak Kirk, Jacob F. Sherson and Gitte Kragh

Many young people struggle with their mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic compounded these challenges. However, young people are rarely involved in research and communication about causes and coping strategies. We used an online game as a conversation starter and co-created a list of coping strategies with young people to apply the dialogue model of science communication and facilitate social conversation about mental health during COVID-19. The young people found the involvement was valuable as it led to self-reflection, social reflection with peers and an experience of recognition and contribution. We discuss challenges and urge researchers to explore ways for open dialogue and co-creation as strategic and contributing parts of the research process.

Volume 23 • Issue 01 • 2024

Nov 13, 2023 Article
An analysis of science communication about COVID-19 vaccination in Portuguese online news media

by Elaine Santana, Joana Bernardo, Inga Donici, Rúben Valente, Bárbara Pedro, Inês Almeida, Sílvia Silva, Conceição Alegre, Teresa Loureiro and Rosa Silva

This study aimed to analyze the usage of scientific concepts and technical terms related to COVID-19 vaccination in Portuguese online news sources and examine citizens' comprehension of these terms. A retrospective descriptive study was conducted, examining Portuguese news articles about COVID-19 vaccination from November 2021 to January 2022. Scientific terms were extracted from 190 articles, and seven citizens provided identification and brief definitions of familiar terms. Approximately 68% of the news articles involved collaboration with researchers or health professionals. A total of 144 scientific terms were identified in 77% of the articles, with more than half (57.54%) of these terms being unknown or inadequately defined by the citizens consulted.

Volume 22 • Issue 05 • 2023

Oct 09, 2023 Essay
A critical perspective on the mediatization of brain imaging and healthy ageing

by Najmeh Khalili-Mahani and Eugene Loos

Since the invention of functional brain imaging in the early 1990s, this instrumentally and computationally expensive methodology has captured our interests in visualizing the working mind, especially that of super-ageing brains. Because neuroimaging research is costly, various communication strategies are deployed to increase its visibility and fundraising success. Through a historical perspective on the representation of healthy ageing in the media, we examine the methods of communication (media logic) and the cultural interdependencies between media, research institutions, and health funding politics (mediatization), which magnify the profile of brain imaging in advancing the science of healthy ageing. Examples of hyped messaging about healthy-ageing brains underline the risk of visual ageism — a prejudiced and stereotypical view of what a good or bad older brain looks like. We argue that hyped mediatization can alienate older adults from participating in a line of research that might stigmatize them.

Volume 22 • Issue 05 • 2023

Apr 17, 2023 Article
Who are “we”? Examining relational ethos in British Columbia, Canada's COVID-19 public health communication

by Philippa Spoel, Alexandra Millar, Naomi Lacelle and Aarani Mathialagan

This paper investigates the multiple meanings and functions of the pronoun “we” in COVID-19 public updates by British Columbia's acclaimed Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in 2020. Our rhetorical case study shows how “we” contributes to Henry's relational ethos by attempting to foster a communal identity with her implied audience while also distinguishing public health expertise, actions, and authority from citizens' knowledge and actions. Ambiguous uses of “we” blur the line between the knowledge and responsibilities of “we” in public health and “we” as citizens. Overall, our rhetorical analysis demonstrates the significant but ambivalent role this pronoun can play in building relations of social trust among citizens, experts, and institutions within public health and science communication contexts and it suggests the importance of judicious pronoun usage when communicators strive to foster these relations.

Volume 22 • Issue 02 • 2023

Feb 27, 2023 Book Review
A Challenge for Media and Communication Studies: the Covid-19 Pandemic

by Rod Lamberts

Katarzyna Kopecka-Piech and Bartłomiej Łódzki’s edited volume, The Covid-19 Pandemic as a Challenge for Media and Communication Studies, could be of great utility to science communication scholars and teachers. The studies with contained within it address two overarching research questions. First, how have media and communication reality changed during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe? Second, how were media and communication studied effectively through that period? The volume features 17 individual studies calling on myriad methods and case examples. This diversity of approaches allows the editors to also address an important, implicit third question. In essence: what has it been like to conduct worthwhile, meaningful, and robust research under such unusual and extreme global circumstances? Each chapter is thorough, detailed and of a high technical standard. This is a book that would likely best serve experienced readers more than novices. The entire compendium bears clear witness to the dynamic nature of social research playing out against a context of enormous global instability.

Volume 22 • Issue 01 • 2023

Dec 05, 2022 Article
Politics, economy and society in the coverage of COVID-19 by elite newspapers in US, UK, China and Brazil: a text mining approach

by Luiz Felipe Fernandes Neves and Luisa Massarani

We analyzed 95,970 stories on COVID-19 published in 2020 by newspapers in US, UK, China and Brazil — countries marked by controversial management of the crisis. Through a text mining approach, we identified main topics, subjects, actors and the level of attention. The coverage was politicized in “The New York Times” and “Folha de S. Paulo”; focused on health aspects in “The Guardian”; and emphasized the economic situation in “China Daily”. In this sense, the pandemic has motivated a deeper approach to the multiple dimensions of science and health, pointing to a broader perspective of science communication.

Volume 21 • Issue 07 • 2022

Aug 29, 2022 Article
Vaccination rates in Europe are not associated with online media intensity

by Catarina Luís, Veronica Romina Di Marzo, Mandeep Kaur, Christos Argyropoulos, Declan Devane, Fiona Anne Stewart, George Antoniou, Greet Hendrickx, Helena Hervius Askling, Margot Hellemans, Miriam Cohen, Orly Spivak, Pierre Van Damme, Rebecca Jane Cox, Sirkka Vene, Sofie Sibia, Zoi Dorothea Pana, Ole Olesen and on behalf of VACCELERATE Consortium

To map the public information about COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine trials in Europe, we have compiled an inventory of online communication materials from official sources (e.g., governments, public agencies, and NGOs) via directed online research. While information for the general public was abundant across Europe, we found a large variation in number, type and target audiences among countries. Little or no information was found for population groups that are typically underrepresented in vaccine clinical trials. Materials about clinical trials and trial participation were also limited. Interestingly, higher number of media materials was not reflected in higher national vaccination rates.

Volume 21 • Issue 05 • 2022

Aug 22, 2022 Article
Increasingly polarised or finding common ground? Exploring pro- and anti-vaccine rhetoric on two South African Facebook pages

by Karien Connoway, Hannah Keal, Milandré van Lill and Marina Joubert

We investigated pro- and anti-vaccine rhetoric on two South African Facebook pages to identify the nature, sources and justifications of the vaccine-related claims published on these pages. Our dataset consisted of 440 Facebook posts made by page administrators during 2019. Statements related to the safety and necessity of vaccines dominated the pro-vaccine page, while the anti-vaccine page focussed primarily on claims about the dangers of vaccines. Posts on both pages frequently contained content shared from within Facebook, with much of the content originating from the United States. Both pages made equal use of scientific justifications (i.e. published journal articles) to support claims, and most of these articles were published in accredited journals. The authors hope that a better understanding of the nature, sources and justifications of pro- and anti-vaccine rhetoric may lead to more constructive dialogue about vaccines, including the ongoing debate about COVID-19 vaccines.

Volume 21 • Issue 05 • 2022