fulbright Taiwan online journal

fulbright Taiwan online journal

Researching health misinformation and digital literacy in the interdisciplinary Harvard Yenching Institute

The fruitful journey to Harvard 

I felt honored to have been awarded the Fulbright Senior Scholar Grant (2022-August) to visit the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. Having received my Ph.D. in the U.S. many years ago, I am very glad to return once again as a Harvard visiting scholar in Boston. It is also a privilege to be selected as the visiting scholar of Harvard Yenching Institute (HYI), a prestigious foundation founded in 1928 and dedicated to advancing Asian higher education by cultivating excellent scholars in humanities and social sciences. As the first HYI scholar from Taiwan’s communication discipline, I felt so blessed to conduct my health misinformation mixed-method research in this resourceful institute and immerse myself in its interdisciplinary environment to engage with outstanding Asian scholars from diverse humanity backgrounds. 

While committed to my ongoing research projects, I keenly audited courses and vibrantly exchanged research ideas with Harvard faculty and engaged in scholarly activities and attended inspiring seminars in research centers (Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Center for Health and Happiness, and Radcliffe Institute). Meanwhile, I gave invited talks and interacted with scholars in other top communication schools (e.g., Boston University) and research centers (e.g., Standford Social Media Lab and MIT Media Lab), in order to share research insights, enrich my perspectives and horn research skills. Additionally, I got a competitive grant to organize HYI Workshop titled Post-truth politics and public health: Dis- and misinformation crises and media challenges in March 2023. Furthermore, I actively participated in major communication conferences (i.e., NCA, PTC, BEA, ICA, IAMCR and AEJMC) to moderate sessions and present research outcomes related to health misinformation and socialbot projects. In May 2023, I was elected as the Vice President of Chinese Communication Association (國際中華傳播學會) (2023-2025) and will resume the President in the next two years.   

Research Work and Deliverables

My mixed method research project focuses on investigating health misinformation risks on COVID-19 preventive measures (e.g., vaccination) and evaluating digital literacy effects on mitigating infodemic. First, I used structural equation modeling (SEM) to analyze a web survey dataset, which investigates Taiwanese COVID-19 health misinformation, digital and health literacy, epidemic prevention measures, and vaccine intention using. Secondly, I conducted systematic content analysis of health misinformation messages debunk by two fact-checking institutes, which aims to explicates health misinformation’s content types, characteristics, and motives after Taiwan’s COVID-19 Level 3 Alert. To share preliminary research insights, I have given a hybrid Harvard Yenching research titled “Mitigating COVID disinfodemic: Health misinformation, digital literacy and vaccination in Taiwan” in December 2022. I first shared content analysis results of health misinformation after Taiwan’s Level 3 alert, which showed three salient types of vaccine effectiveness, epidemic prevention cures, and government prevention measures, with the motives of conspiracy theories, panic stirring and political smearing. Next, I reported web survey results related to social media users’ (dis)misinformation efficacy and COVID-19 health literacy. This research talk generated lively discussions and positive feedback among interdisciplinary scholars from various countries. In February 2023, I was invited for another talk titled “COVID-19 health misinformation, digital literacy, and mitigation in Taiwan” at Bridgewater State University. I shared research findings on health misinformation and digital literacy in Taiwan, and received enthusiastic feedback.

Dis- or misinformation in politics and public health are two critical and urgent issues that cause tremendous anxiety, risks and harm domestically and internationally. To mitigate infodemics (in politics and public health), it is essential to have interdisciplinary efforts devoted to investigate the crises, tackle the challenges and find feasible solutions collectively. Receiving a competitive HYI grant, I organized “Post-truth politics and public health: Dis- and misinformation crises and media challenges” workshop on March 24, 2023. It aims to invite scholars and experts to share research insights regarding political disinformation and health misinformation in various contexts, as well as explore effective measures to mitigate political and health falsehoods. Several well-known scholars were invited to present their studies in relation to two themes: (1) socio-political disinformation, computational propaganda and democracy risks and (2) Health misinformation, media trust & public health threats. I also presented research insights about “Socialbots, computational propaganda and disinformation threats in Taiwan’s politics and elections.” We had stimulating and fruitful discussions and exchange research ideas for future collaboration in the one-day workshop.