RAPID: Influencing Young Adults’ Science Engagement and Learning with COVID-19 Media Knowledge Gap Study #3a – Germ Knowledge

Friday, August 6, 2021
Resource Type:
Research Case Study | Research | Research Products
Environment Type: 
Media and Technology, Websites, Mobile Apps, and Online Media
Adults | Museum/ISE Professionals
Health and medicine
KQED, Inc., Texas Tech University

This collaborative research project between KQED, a public media organization serving the San Francisco Bay Area, Texas Tech University and Rockman et al conducted research to study how best to provide effective COVID-19 science news and social media content for young adult audiences.

To start the work, four “Knowledge Gap” studies – Twitter Misinformation, Mask Wearing Messaging, Germ Knowledge and Conceptual Mapping – as well as social media testing were conducted to address our research question: How could COVID-19 coverage be designed to best inform, engage and educate millennials and younger audiences about the science of virus transmission and prevention?

In the Germ Knowledge study, we wanted to look at knowledge gaps in the general public, not only surrounding misinformation about COVID-19, but also viruses and bacteria or what we refer to as “germs” in the study. A high percentage of participants did not understand that COVID is a virus or how to treat it. If the public doesn’t understand or believe basic concepts about germs and vaccinations and how they spread, then messaging around more complex issues need to take the public’s baseline understanding of these things into consideration.

Implications for media professionals:

  • Focus on widely-held views or those that will affect decision making
  • Help explain the differences between viruses and bacteria
  • Takes consistent effort over time to counter false information
  • Gap in knowledge among younger generations
  • Consider other demographic factors when communicating health/science messages
Funding Program: 
Award Number: 
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Team Members

Sue Ellen McCannPrincipal Investigator
Sevda ErisSevda ErisCo-Principal Investigator
Asheley LandrumAsheley LandrumCo-Principal Investigator
Kelsi OpatKelsi OpatAuthor
Natasha StrydhorstNatasha StrydhorstContributor

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