Hey folks, I just wanted to let you know that I am on a team that just got approval for a new NSF grant. Here are the details below:


National Science Foundation

This project examines the ways that misinformation regarding COVID-19 disseminates through social media and news outlets. The spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 is part of a larger interest in the communication of accurate and timely scientific information to the public. This project assembles data on English-language news feeds devoted to COVID-19 as well as Facebook, Reddit, twitter, and other social media posts related to COVID-19 to assess the spread of scientific misinformation through social media and the internet with the goal of aiding officials and science advisors in limiting the spread of misinformation as the pandemic unfolds. The ultimate goal is to use machine learning and network analysis tools to provide insight into the locations where misinformation originates and understanding of the mechanisms through which this misinformation spreads. Our project uses the pre-existing infrastructure of the Cline Center and the social media macroscope at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to track the spread of dubious and potentially harmful information on the origins, spread, and treatments for COVID-19. The researchers will use prevailing insights from the Centers for Disease Control to assess what is known currently about COVID-19 and then develop a machine-learning algorithm to detect information on the web and on social media that will be labelled as potentially dubious. The extraction of claims, people, places, and things from these posts will be used to track locations, people, and organizational affiliations of dubious COVID-19 information. The resulting data will be subjected to network analysis techniques that search for structural holes and weak ties through which misinformation spreads with the goal of providing scientists and policy makers with potential information mitigation strategies. The textual and network modeling this project provides will be immediately available through a University of Illinois COVID-19 website, disseminated through press releases and outreach to policy-making community, and integrated into scientific publications that will be published in open-source formats. The long-term implications of our analysis and the ability to identify hot spots and fault-lines in public communication networks and social media sites will be useful for fighting future pandemics as well as other topics that are vital to the health of the Nation.

AMOUNT: $150,000

I am a Co-PI on this one-year grant along with PI Kevin Leicht (Sociology), Co-PI Brant Houston (Journalism), and Senior Personnel Loretta Auvil (NCSA).

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