A Public Health Research Agenda for Managing Infodemics: Methods and Results of the First WHO Infodemiology Conference

Neville Calleja, Abdelhalim Abdallah, Neetu Abad, Naglaa Ahmed, Dolores Albarracin, Elena Altieri, Julienne N Anoko, Ruben Arcos, Arina Anis Azlan, Judit Bayer, Anja Bechmann, Supriya Bezbaruah, Sylvie C Briand, Ian Brooks, Lucie M Bucci, Stefano Burzo, Christine Czerniak, Manlio De Domenico, Adam G Dunn, Ullrich K H EckerLaura Espinosa, Camille Francois, Kacper Gradon, Anatoliy Gruzd, Beste Sultan Gülgün, Rustam Haydarov, Cherstyn Hurley, Santi Indra Astuti, Atsuyoshi Ishizumi, Neil Johnson, Dylan Johnson Restrepo, Masato Kajimoto, Aybüke Koyuncu, Shibani Kulkarni, Jaya Lamichhane, Rosamund Lewis, Avichal Mahajan, Ahmed Mandil, Erin Mcaweeney, Melanie Messer, Wesley Moy, Patricia Ndumbi Ngamala, Tim Nguyen, Mark Nunn, Saad B Omer, Claudia Pagliari, Palak Patel, Lynette Phuong, Dimitri Prybylski, Arash Rashidian, Emily Rempel, Sara Rubinelli, Pierluigi Sacco, Anton Schneider, Kai Shu, Melanie Smith, Harry Sufehmi, Viroj Tangcharoensathien, Robert Terry, Naveen Thacker, Tom Trewinnard, Shannon Turner, Heidi Tworek, Saad Uakkas, Emily Vraga, Claire Wardle, Herman Wasserman, Elisabeth Wilhelm, Andrea Würz, Brian Yau, Lei Zhou, Tina D Purnat

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Abstract

Background: An infodemic is an overflow of information of varying quality that surges across digital and physical environments during an acute public health event. It leads to confusion, risk-taking and behaviors that can harm health and lead to erosion of trust in health authorities and public health responses. The global scale and high stakes of the emergency have made responding to the infodemic related to the COVID-19 pandemic particularly urgent. Building on diverse research disciplines and expanding the discipline of infodemiology, more evidence-based interventions are needed to design infodemic management interventions and tools, and implement them by health emergency responders.

Objective: WHO organised the first global infodemiology conference, entirely online during June-July 2020, and a follow up August-October 2020, to review current multidisciplinary evidence, interventions and practices that can be applied to the COVID-19 infodemic response. This resulted in a public health research agenda for managing infodemics.

Methods: As part of the conference, a structured expert judgement synthesis method was used to formulate a public health research agenda. One hundred and ten participants represented diverse scientific disciplines, from over 35 countries and global public health implementing partners. The conference used a laddered discussion sprint methodology by rotating participant teams, and a follow-up managed process to assemble a research agenda based on the discussion and structured expert feedback. This resulted in a five-work-stream frame of the research agenda for infodemic management and 166 suggested research questions. The participants then ranked the questions for feasibility and expected public health impact. The expert consensus was summarised in a public health research agenda which included a list of priority research questions.

Results: The public health research agenda for infodemic management has five work-streams: (i) measuring and continuously monitoring the impact of infodemics during health emergencies; (ii) detecting signals and understanding the spread and risk of infodemics; (iii) responding and deploying interventions that mitigate and protect against infodemics and their harmful effects; (iv) evaluating infodemic interventions and strengthening the resilience of individuals and communities to infodemics; and (v) promoting the development, adaptation and application of interventions and toolkits for infodemic management. Each work-stream identified research questions and highlights 49 high priority research questions.

Conclusions: Public health authorities need to develop, validate, implement and adapt tools and interventions for managing infodemics in acute public health events in ways that are appropriate for their countries and contexts. For that to be possible, infodemiology provides a scientific foundation. This research agenda proposes a structured framework for targeted investment for the scientific community, policymakers, implementing organizations and other stakeholders to consider.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e30979
JournalJMIR Infodemiology
Volume1
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Infodemic
  • Digital Health
  • COVID-19
  • Public Health
  • Misinformation
  • Internet
  • Information overload
  • Disinformation
  • Social Media
  • Health communication

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  • A Public Health Research Agenda for Managing Infodemics: Methods and Results of the First WHO Infodemiology Conference

    Calleja, N., Abdallah, A., Abad, N., Ahmed, N., Albarracin, D., Altieri, E., Anoko, J. N., Arcos, R., Azlan, A. A., Bayer, J., Bechmann, A., Bezbaruah, S., Briand, S. C., Brooks, I., Bucci, L. M., Burzo, S., Czerniak, C., De Domenico, M., Dunn, A. G., Ecker, U. K. H. & 52 others, Espinosa, L., Francois, C., Gradon, K., Gruzd, A., Gülgün, B. S., Haydarov, R., Hurley, C., Astuti, S. I., Ishizumi, A., Johnson, N., Johnson Restrepo, D., Kajimoto, M., Koyuncu, A., Kulkarni, S., Lamichhane, J., Lewis, R., Mahajan, A., Mandil, A., Mcaweeney, E., Messer, M., Moy, W., Ndumbi Ngamala, P., Nguyen, T., Nunn, M., Omer, S. B., Pagliari, C., Patel, P., Phuong, L., Prybylski, D., Rashidian, A., Rempel, E., Rubinelli, S., Sacco, P., Schneider, A., Shu, K., Smith, M., Sufehmi, H., Tangcharoensathien, V., Terry, R., Thacker, N., Trewinnard, T., Turner, S., Tworek, H., Uakkas, S., Vraga, E., Wardle, C., Wasserman, H., Wilhelm, E., Würz, A., Yau, B., Zhou, L. & Purnat, T. D., 15 Sep 2021, In: JMIR Infodemiology. 1, 1, p. e30979

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