Researcher to discuss challenges of COVID-19 communication

Acclaimed author and science communication expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson will give a virtual talk on the challenges of communicating about COVID-19 for the School of Journalism and Communication’s annual Richard W. and Laurie Johnston Lecture series.

On Jan. 14 at 4 p.m., Jamieson will explore ways to communicate the nature of emerging science to the press and public in polarized times. The event is sponsored by the Center for Science Communication Research and co-sponsored by the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact and the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics,

A renowned international researcher and the co-founder of, Jamieson received the National Academy of Sciences’ most prestigious award, the Public Welfare Medal, for her nonpartisan work in public discourse and the development of science communication to promote public understanding of complex issues in 2020.

“As the pandemic raged, anecdotes touted supposed COVID-19 cures, and conspiracy theories alleged scientists such as Dr. Anthony Fauci were up to no good,” Jamieson said. “Headline-driving studies contradicted other headline-driving ones. This talk will address the questions: What did the public make of all this? Did the media channels on which a person relies matter?”

Jamieson is the Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and director of the university’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. She co-founded and SciCheck, both of which monitor political speech to detect misuses of science.

She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the International Communication Association. Her most recent book, “Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President,” won the Association of American Publishers’ 2019 R.R. Hawkins Award.

Ellen Peters, Philip H. Knight Chair and director of the Center for Science Communication Research, described Jamieson as the “epitome of our vision at SCR” to lead cutting-edge science communication research and understand how to improve the public’s scientific and numeric literacy.

“This talk, in particular, has a great premise,” Peters said. “Using the story of the attempts to test a potential COVID-19 treatment, Dr. Jamieson will explore science literacy and what we need to know to make good choices for ourselves and society.”

Jamieson's lecture on public distrust in science was scheduled on campus in March 2020, but it was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. She delivered a virtual talk titled “Facts Still Matter: Countering the Influence of Russian Hackers, Trolls, and ‘Viral Deception’” on Oct. 29. The talk was sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center and co-sponsored by the Center for Science Communication Research.

The annual Johnston Lecture series brings top-tier professionals to campus for stimulating lectures, discussions and workshops. It is funded by charitable donations from the Johnston family, George E. Jones of U.S. News and World Report and the Correspondents Fund.

“Besides this talk, SCR sponsors a variety of activities for students, faculty and the public,” Peters said. “They range from experiential learning opportunities to research forums and external lectures.“We are honored to host Dr. Hall Jamieson, who, like our other external speakers, will add immensely to our repertoire of questions to ask and tools to answer them.”

The Johnston Lecture is free and open to the public, but registration for the Zoom event is required.

By Joanna Mann, School of Journalism and Communication