Interdisciplinary Analysis of Science Communication on Social Media during the COVID-19 Crisis

Authors : Thomas Mandl, Sylvia Jaki, Hannah Mitera, Franziska Schmidt

In times of crisis, science communication needs to be accessible and convincing. In order to understand whether these two criteria apply to concrete science communication formats, it is not enough to merely study the communication product. Instead, the recipient’s perspective also needs to be taken into account.

What do recipients value in popular science communication formats concerning COVID-19? What do they criticize? What elements in the formats do they pay attention to? These questions can be answered by reception studies, for example, by analyzing the reactions and comments of social media users.

This is particularly relevant since scientific information was increasingly disseminated over social media channels during the COVID-19 crisis. This interdisciplinary study, therefore, focuses both on science communication strategies in media formats and the related comments on social media.

First, we selected science communication channels on YouTube and performed a qualitative multi-modal analysis. Second, the comments responding to science communication content online were analyzed by identifying Twitter users who are doctors, researchers, science communicators and those who represent research institutes and then, subsequently, performing topic modeling on the textual data.

The main goal was to find topics that directly related to science communication strategies. The qualitative video analysis revealed, for example, a range of strategies for accessible communication and maintaining transparency about scientific insecurities.

The quantitative Twitter analysis showed that few tweets commented on aspects of the communication strategies. These were mainly positive while the sentiment in the overall collection was less positive.

We downloaded and processed replies for 20 months, starting at the beginning of the pandemic, which resulted in a collection of approximately one million tweets from the German science communication market.

URL : Interdisciplinary Analysis of Science Communication on Social Media during the COVID-19 Crisis