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COSMOS Researchers Win Best Paper Award for Research into Dynamics of COVID-19 Misinformation Themes

Faculty Excellence nominee Nitin Agarwal. Photo by Ben Krain.
Faculty Excellence nominee Nitin Agarwal. Photo by Ben Krain.

Researchers at UA Little Rock’s Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies (COSMOS) won the Best Paper Award for their paper studying the dynamics of COVID-19 misinformation themes using topic streams.

The researchers received the award from the Seventh International Conference on Human and Social Analytics held in Nice, France. The researchers used computational techniques to help reveal the dynamics of COVID-19 misinformation themes that assist in forecasting and proactive policy making.

The paper’s authors include Thomas Marcoux, a doctoral student from Orléans, France, Dr. Esther Mead, who graduated from UA Little Rock in 2020 with a Ph.D. in computer and information science and is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at COSMOS, and Dr. Nitin Agarwal, Jerry L. Maulden-Entergy endowed chair, distinguished professor of information science, and the founding director of COSMOS.

“The paper proposes a methodology to visualize the evolution of misinformation narratives over time,” Marcoux said. “While it relies on public data and is not intrusive, my hope is that we can progressively reduce the need for such tools. I hope the study can shed some light on the misinformation phenomenon, and help readers get a better grasp of the complexity of online narratives.”

The research is intended to help sociologists, journalists, and politicians understand the movements of online trends involving misinformation to help report information, make decisions, and set policies.

“It is an honor to have been able to work alongside such great researchers on this very important work that illustrates the fact that misinformation stories can be identified on social media and tracked and visualized over time,” Mead said. “This capability can be immediately used by social media administrators, governmental organizations, other researchers, and any other collaborative effort towards stemming the misinformation problem.”

The research was supported by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Office of Naval Research, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, National Science Foundation, Australian DSTO, Entergy, and Arkansas Research Alliance. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding organizations. The researchers gratefully acknowledge the support.