Dr Ciara Greene, Associate Professor in UCD School of Psychology and Lero’s Dr Gillian Murphy of UCC have been awarded funding to support their research project “Inoculating against COVID-19 misinformation”.  More than €180,000 has been allocated to the project, which examines how people respond to misinformation about COVID-19. The research will also explore a range of interventions to reduce this spread of misinformation.

“Understanding why people believe in, share or act on misinformation is critical to slowing its spread. The interventions developed in this project will give people the tools to evaluate information and become more critical consumers of news media. In doing so, we hope to empower citizens to protect themselves and their families from public health threats,” explained lead researcher Professor Ciara Greene.

Welcoming the investment, Stephen Donnelly, TD, Minister for Health, said: “Research has been a key part of our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and we will continue to rely on research in the months ahead. This year, we have not just experienced a pandemic, we have also seen an infodemic. There has been an overload of often unreliable information. We have seen examples of this in relation to the use of vaccines and on unproven medicines. As we plan to introduce a COVID-19 vaccination programme, it is essential that we tackle things like misinformation. Many of these research projects will provide evidence to help us do that. I look forward to using the findings from this research for the benefit of Irish people, the health system and society.”

Commenting on the awards Simon Harris, TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science said: “I’m delighted to announce this significant investment into furthering our understanding of COVID-19 and finding solutions to the challenges the pandemic has presented to our society and economy. As we move closer to commencing a vaccination programme, we need to understand that the virus has not gone away – supporting our expert researchers in our higher education institutions will help us to safely reopen our society.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland, and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “The COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation programme was developed to ensure we could bring together the research expertise to provide solutions to the problems created by the pandemic. The programme has been delivered by a high level of interagency and higher education institutional collaboration both within Ireland and with Northern Ireland. Today’s announcement builds on the previous investment and will continue to support research projects that will generate solutions to the many challenges presented by the pandemic.”

The research projects are part of a coordinated COVID-19 Rapid Response Research, Development and Innovation programme with projects supported by Science Foundation Ireland, in partnership with the Department for the Economy and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, and the Irish Research Council and Health Research Board.