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Grant from Vaccine Confidence Fund supports UW study on access and trust of COVID-19 vaccine research on social media

Leah Pistorius
October 19, 2021

headshots of six researchers
Research team clockwise from top left: Gary Hsieh, Katharina Reinecke, Josh Liao, Tal August, Spencer Williams, Joy Lee

An interdisciplinary team from the University of Washington's Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, and UW School of Medicine received a grant from the Vaccine Confidence Fund to advance access to, and trust of, COVID-19 vaccine research.

Scientific findings demonstrating COVID vaccine efficacy could most directly answer people’s questions about vaccines, boost vaccine confidence, and increase vaccination rates. However, these findings are often difficult to communicate to audiences who may have a lack of trust in, or experience with, scientific research. A new grant from the Vaccine Confidence Fund will enable a team of University of Washington researchers to conduct codesign sessions and large-scale online studies on the virtual lab, LabintheWild, aimed at developing guidelines for integrating and visualizing science-backed vaccine knowledge into social media posts.

The team includes Gary Hsieh, associate professor in HCDE; Katharina Reinecke, associate professor in the Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering and adjunct faculty in HCDE; Josh Liao, associate professor of Medicine at UW Medicine; Spencer Williams, PhD candidate in HCDE; Tal August, PhD candidate in CSE; and Joy Lee, program manager at UW Medicine. 

"With this study, we basically hope to empower everyone to understand and use scientific literature to make informed decisions about whether to get vaccinated, by surfacing relevant information in a more human-centered way," described Williams. "With support from this grant we now have the resources to bring in vaccine-hesitant people to co-design visualizations and tools they can use."

According to Williams, interdisciplinary collaboration is key when tackling a complex problem like this. "This team has the domain knowledge to ask informed questions about people’s vaccine attitudes and determine what info about vaccines might be relevant, and those of us from HCDE and CSE can leverage our expertise in designing and constructing large-scale sociotechnical systems to build a system that provides that info," he said.

The Vaccine Confidence Fund is the flagship program of the Alliance for Advancing Health Online. Grantees from the Fund were selected from all regions of the world with a strong focus on historically excluded or marginalized communities and authentic community engagement. Read more in the Vaccine Confidence Fund press release.