TU Ilmenau starts international research project on corona communication

On 1 June 2021, an international research project at the Technische Universität Ilmenau and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) will begin to investigate risk communication on the Corona pandemic in Germany, Europe and the USA. The research team is comparatively analysing how effectively governments, health institutions and the media informed their citizens about COVID-19 and encouraged self-protective behaviour. The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) with a total of 1.8 million euros over a period of three years.

The results of the DFG research project of TU Ilmenau and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment will show which different crisis communication strategies governments and health authorities in Europe and the USA have used. In doing so, four departments of the TU Ilmenau in the fields of communication science and computer science and the risk communication department of the BfR want to answer three core questions: What explanations and messages about COVID-19 and related protective measures have governments and health institutions in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and the USA communicated to the public in their respective countries? How did media report on the pandemic and related risk messages from governments? How did the public perceive the pandemic and the risk messages?

Porträtfoto Prof. Sattler vor verschwommenem HintergrundTU Ilmenau/ari
Prof. Kai-Uwe Sattler, President of the TU Ilmenau

To answer these questions, the researchersfrom TU Ilmenau and BfR are investigating public communication in the media and social media and surveys of the population. Prof. Kai-Uwe Sattler, President of the TU Ilmenau, hopes that the project will not only contribute to the scientific understanding of pandemics, but also draw conclusions for the future for better communication of authorities and media in crisis scenarios of this kind: "With this research project we would like to contribute to a better understanding and consideration of the effects of public communication in future devastating pandemics." BfR President Prof. Andreas Hensel sees failures in current communication: "The COVID-19 pandemic led to an overabundance of information, some of which was contradictory and some of which was wrong."

The research team from TU Ilmenau and BfR is interdisciplinary: it combines expertise and methods from communication science, psychology, and computer science. Innovative data science methods such as machine learning and network analyses are also used, for example when influential networks are to be identified in the social media in the context of the pandemic. The research team is supported by international experts from Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, the UK, and the USA.


Prof. Martin Löffelholz
Head of Media Studies

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