The COVID19 infodemic. The role and place of academics in science communication

11/17/2020
by   Jennifer Cole, et al.
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As the COVID19 pandemic has spread across the world, a concurrent pandemic of information has spread with it. Deemed an infodemic by the World Health Organization, and described as an overabundance of information, some accurate, some not, that occurs during an epidemic, this proliferation of data, research and opinions provides both opportunities and challenges for academics. Academics and scientists have a key role to play in the solutions to the infodemic challenge: as educators, influences and communicators, even where their expertise and experience does not align precisely with the SARS-Cov2 virus and its impacts. Successful communication requires a better understanding of how the public seeks, understands and processes scientific information, however, in order to maximise the ways in which experts engage with traditional and social media and to make sure that such engagement does not add to confusion and misinformation alongside efforts to counter or challenge it. This paper will outline the key advantages to be had from greater engagement with COVID19 discussions, the popular channels through which such discussions take place and through which information is disseminated. It also warns against the common pitfalls those who choose to engage might encounter, whilst stressing that the disadvantages of doing so are far outweighed by the advantages such engagement offers.

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