What Were the Information Voids? A Qualitative Analysis of Questions Asked by Dear Pandemic Readers between August 2020-August 2021.
Piltch-Loeb R., James R., Albrecht SS., Buttenheim AM., Dowd JB., Kumar A., Jones M., Leininger LJ., Simanek A., Aronowitz S.
In the current infodemic, how individuals receive information (channel), who it is coming from (source), and how it is framed can have an important effect on COVID-19 related mitigation behaviors. In light of these challenges presented by the infodemic, Dear Pandemic (DP) was created to directly address persistent questions related to COVID-19 and other health topics in the online environment. This is a qualitative analysis of 3806 questions that were submitted by DP readers to a question box on the Dear Pandemic website between August 30, 2020 and August 29, 2021. Analyses resulted in four themes: the need for clarification of other sources; lack of trust in information; recognition of possible misinformation; and questions on personal decision-making. Each theme reflects an unmet informational need of Dear Pandemic readers, which may be reflective of the broader informational gaps in our science communication efforts.This study highlights the role of an ad hoc risk communication platform in the current environment and uses questions submitted to the Dear Pandemic question box to identify informational needs of DP readers over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings may help clarify how organizations addressing health misinformation in the digital space can contribute to timely, responsive science communication and improve future communication efforts.