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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

Jul 18, 2022 Book Review
Scratching an itch: a new perspective on health communication in Africa

by Greer Van Zyl

At last, a compilation of essays that provide fascinating insights into Health Communication and Disease in Africa. Falade and Murire (eds.) have produced a volume which needed to be written and will delight those with an interest in health and science communication, public health, social and behaviour change, and theoretical approaches to health communication. Broad themes cover stigma, beliefs and traditions, and rethinking approaches to health communication. A key element is the effort to bridge ‘classical’ approaches to health communication and behaviour change with indigenous knowledge systems of people in Africa.

Volume 21 • Issue 05 • 2022

May 23, 2022 Article
Anti-scientific beliefs predict health behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic

by Nathanael Johnson, Glenn Sparks and Cheri Sparks

There exist today many forms of anti-scientific beliefs, from extreme views like the QAnon conspiracies, to misconceptions about vaccines and cancer treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented to us a situation in which the public is being asked by medical experts and politicians alike to trust in science and follow after various health recommendations like wearing masks or getting vaccinated against the virus. We used an anti-science belief scale [Morgan et al., 2018] to assess how preexisting beliefs that run counter to the scientific narrative predict behaviors during the pandemic. We found that people who were more accepting of those anti-scientific positions trusted medical information and experts less and engaged less in recommended health behaviors, while simultaneously showing a more favorable view of Trump's actions as President during the pandemic.

Volume 21 • Issue 03 • 2022

May 16, 2022 Article
“Cover your mouth and nose”: communication about health protection behaviors by role models in YouTube COVID-19 videos for children

by Jocelyn Steinke, Carolyn A. Lin, Tamia Duncan and Viviana Zambrano

YouTube videos offer a potentially useful vehicle for the communication of science, health, and medical information about COVID-19 to children. Findings from this research showed that primary characters appearing in children's educational YouTube videos about COVID-19 were most often adults, with about an equal number of men and women and few characters from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Primary characters frequently demonstrated and modeled protective health measures. Adult expert characters (medical professionals and scientists) appeared to some extent in these videos. Directive discourse frames appeared most frequently, followed by the informative and persuasive discourse frames when communicating scientific and health information. Changes in the use of informative, directive, and persuasive frames before and after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced guidelines on how to communicate about COVID-19 with children are explored.

Volume 21 • Issue 03 • 2022

Apr 20, 2022 Practice Insight
Science communication during COVID-19: when theory meets practice and best practices meet reality

by Christopher D. Wirz, Ashley Cate, Markus Brauer, Dominique Brossard, Lori DiPrete Brown, Kaiping Chen, Pauline Ho, D. Gavin Luter, Haley Madden, Sara Schoenborn, Bret Shaw, Cory Sprinkel, Don Stanley and Gail Sumi

This paper synthesizes the efforts of an interdisciplinary, University-convened communication task force in the U.S. that used science communication theory to develop an effective strategy during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. We outline recommendations for researchers and practitioners who are, or are interested in, implementing theory-based communication practices while describing how we dealt with the unforeseen realities we faced. Overall, we recommend that effective public health and science communication should be based on theory and formative evaluation while relying on established infrastructure, real-time data, a deep understanding of intended target audiences, and intentional coordination with community partners.

Volume 21 • Issue 03 • 2022

Mar 28, 2022 Practice Insight
Look before you leap: assessing community readiness for action on science and health policy issues

by Christina Standerfer, Emily Loker and Jason Lochmann

This practice insight focuses on lessons learned while completing a research project designed to compare the relative effectiveness of three communication strategies in rural communities relative to motivating citizens to take action on a public health issue, specifically Type 2 diabetes. Our main arguments are: 1) Engaging citizens in any type of communication related to public health or science action requires first assessing a community's readiness for that action; and 2) Community readiness — rather than communication methodology — is the better predictor of citizens' participation in collective or individual actions on public health and science issues.

Volume 21 • Issue 02 • 2022 • Special Issue Participatory science communication for transformation (PCST2020+1)