Coronavirus Outbreak: Mapping and Countering Misinformation

Caulfield, Timothy A | $381,708

Alberta University of Alberta 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

The spread of health misinformation and disinformation are a serious threat to public health, including in the case of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Addressing the spread of COVID‑19 misinformation involves identifying the misinformation in circulation, understanding the public impact, and designing and implementing evidence-based solutions to combat the harmful discourse. We propose conducting research into COVID‑19 misinformation from multiple angles, developing effective communication and education tools, countering misinformation strategically, and providing policy recommendations to deal with COVID‑19 and future outbreaks. Our interdisciplinary team of experts is led by Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair and Health Law Institute Research Director, who has been studying health and science misinformation for over 20 years. Our team will conduct systematic content analyses of traditional and online social media and empirical psychological research on how individuals respond to COVID‑19 information. The objective is to assemble and execute a depth-of-analysis sufficient to enact positive outcomes for COVID‑19 while establishing a blueprint for future misinformation events. The impact of this course of research will be significant, enabling the development of strategies to combat misinformation, stigma, and fear, to address their underlying drivers, and to improve public awareness, knowledge, and trust. We will meet the call’s objectives of contributing to the global response to the COVID‑19 outbreak, strengthening the understanding of its public impacts, and providing evidence to inform public health planning, decision making and response. Deploying our expertise and networks will maximize outputs, including to those in health care, government, popular media, and the public at large.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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