Exploring links: Second DECIPHER workshop held at TU Ilmenau

TU Ilmenau

From June 23to June 24, the DECIPHER consortium including its principal investigators, research associates, external guests, and the internationally renowned scholars supporting the project (Mercator Fellows) from the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and the USA gathered at Technische Universität Ilmenau for its second workshop. Since the start of the project in 2021, this was the first time the whole team was able to meet in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The workshop was organized by Dr. Nadine Steinmetz (TU Ilmenau), Professor Dr. Martin Löffelholz (TU Ilmenau), and his team of research associates.

In addition to discussing the project’s progress, the main goal of the workshop was to elaborate the conceptual and empirical links of the different studies and data sets that are part of DECIPHER. The international and interdisciplinary group of scholars and practitioners developed ideas for linking the results of interviews with government officials with the analyses of press releases, news coverage, social media discourses, and citizen surveys. Establishing meaningful links between these data and the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic over time is one of the major goals of DECIPHER. This will result in a better understanding and further development of risk communication strategies and their impact on the population and its motivation for self-protective behavior in the context of infectious diseases across countries.

Among the principal investigators presenting specific aspects of their sub-projects was Dr. Natalie Berger of the German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment (BfR) whose team will interview and survey citizens and risk groups and their perceptions of governments’ crisis response to COVID-19 in seven countries. Dr. Andreas Schwarz, principal investigator of DECIPHER at TU Ilmenau, presented the results of a preliminary literature study, which aggregates the findings of peer-reviewed publications on media representations of the pandemic. Dr. Jingyuan Yu talked about different approaches and challenges of analyzing social media content on COVID-19 on Twitter and Youtube with computational methods. One of the external attendees was Professor Dr. Michael Geertz from the University of Heidelberg. He explained the goals and methods of the so-called EPINetz project in which researchers analyze the fragmentation of the digital public sphere as well as political activism and debates on social media. By doing so, he shared valuable experiences with applying methods of data gathering and automated content analysis with the DECIPHER team. Further international attendees were Audra Diers-Lawson (Kristiana University College, Oslo), Danielle Timmermans (Amsterdam UMC), Deanna Sellnow (University of Central Florida, Orlando), Timothy Sellnow (University of Central Florida, Orlando), Fabiana Zollo (Ca’ Foscari University, Venice), and Bengt Johansson (University of Gothenburg).


The DECIPHER team agreed to hold two further workshops in Erfurt (2023) and Berlin (2024).