Posted February 18, 2019
When the topic of the vaccine-autism debate comes up, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest currently making headlines around the country. There’s a plethora of scientific research examining how diseases like this spread, particularly in communities with lower rates of vaccination, but did you know that there’s also research on how unverified health information spreads on social media, fueling outbreaks like this one? Some of the college’s top researchers have been scouring big data to study this issue, and their findings could help curb isolated outbreaks before they become full-blown epidemics.
Faculty research generally doesn’t elicit the same enthusiasm as the construction of our brand new social media insights lab or news on student achievements. Sometimes the academic jargon and the theoretical language can make it tough to digest — we get it. But as the example above illustrates, researchers have the potential to save lives — yes, even researchers delving into the world of data and communications.
With that said, I wanted to highlight some of our research heavy hitters this month.
For starters, Dr. Vanessa Kitzie in SLIS is the principle investigator on a $300,000 grant awarded by the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program to examine how public libraries can serve as a critical resource for health information among LGBTQ+ people. She’s in the process of launching her study now, and we’re hopeful that her findings will give us more insight on how libraries can transform their communities. Read more about it and other SLIS grants here.
On the J-school side, Dr. Mo Jang recently received a National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Advancement Grant to develop a computational tool for identifying language patterns on social media. That’s academic-speak, but in layman’s terms, much of Dr. Jang’s research looks at how fake news is disseminated on social media. It’s a hot topic now and his findings might help us educate news consumers on how to differentiate between real news and fake or misleading information.
And it should come as no surprise that the UofSC Office of Research has recognized two CIC scholars as 2019 Breakthrough award recipients. These awards honor the very best researchers across the spectrum, from doctoral students to tenured faculty. This year, our own Dr. Jang and doctoral student Joon Kyoung Kim made the list. Dr. Jang is one of only 14 faculty named Breakthrough Stars, and Kim is one of just 13 students. Kim has also explored issues like fake news and the vaccine-autism controversy, so we’re excited to see where his research takes him next.
Research matters. When you support the college, you’re not just supporting student excellence — though that’s certainly an important part of it. You’re also supporting the work that our faculty do beyond the classroom, work that provides us with a deeper understanding of human behavior and has the power to influence every aspect of our lives. I hope that you’ll think about our professors the next time you skim the headlines. I know I will.