Joseph Kready, a senior computer science major at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has been selected for the 2020 Social Networks and Health Fellowship program at Duke University.
This annual fellowship program is a highly competitive, year-long professional development opportunity for junior investigators to apply social network methodologies and analytic approaches in health sciences research.
Kready will attend a one-week fellowship workshop at Duke University. The course will cover a wide range of social network analysis topics related to studying health behaviors, including data collection, influence, network visualization, and agent-based modeling. Following the workshop, Kready will be matched with a mentor, who will advise him for a year to work on his ongoing vaccine research project and will be presenting the results of his project at the 2021 workshop.
Kready is monitoring the progression of anti-vaccination content on YouTube and blogs through his work with COSMOS (Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies), a research group led byDr. Nitin Agarwal, UA Little Rock Jerry L. Maulden-Entergy endowed chair and professor of information science.
“Vaccinations are really good at preventing diseases from spreading, but a lot of people have different opinions on vaccinations,” Kready said. “Despite the positive impact of vaccinations, there has been a growing movement against getting vaccinated. Some of the most common arguments against being vaccinated are weakened immune systems in children, autism, unsafe toxins, and catching the flu from the weakened viruses. We are monitoring that content to see who is pushing the narrative of not getting vaccinated and how it is morphing over time.”
As part of astudy funded by the National Science Foundation, COSMOS is studying anti-vaccination campaigns in Arkansas and West Virginia. The group has identified more than 9,500 videos on 13 channels related to anti-vaccination campaigns and has collected more than 1.6 million comments about anti-vaccination content.
“From our datasets, we hope to generate insights into what is going on in anti-vaccination campaigns,” Kready said. “Some insights we are currently working to calculate are who are the most influential users, finding the most toxic content and commenters, finding the top commenters, and analyzing how information spreads through the network.”
The fellowship will cover all of Kready’s costs to attend the workshop as well as the eligibility to apply to additional funding for travel, training, or resources during the 2020-21 year of fellowship. Fellows are expected to continue work on their submitted, mentored ongoing project using social networks and are slotted for quarterly check-ins with their mentorship team to assess progress and proposal submission quality.