CURRENT RESEARCH

Media Discourse on Vaccines and Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada

This project examines the discourse on mandatory childhood immunizations in Canadian news media during the rapid increase in 2019 of measles outbreaks nationally and globally. It undertakes a qualitative content analysis to assess reporting on key issues such as provincial policies and immunization programs, vaccine mandates and the validity of non-medical exemptions (e.g., on religious grounds), vaccine hesitancy and declining vaccination rates, proposed strategies to combat vaccine misinformation on social media, and vaccine ethics. The analysis aims to establish the overall position of Canadian media towards vaccines and whether mandatory childhood immunizations are perceived as a solution to the low vaccination rates. I am currently expanding this research to examine the impact of post-truth politics on vaccine acceptance and the role of social media channels in spreading misinformation and conspiracies about vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am particularly interested in the role of “publics” in vaccine development and immunization programs and the use of deliberative public engagement for restoring public trust in the safety of vaccines vis-à-vis traditional “knowledge deficit” models of expert-led public education and technology delivery.

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Doctor wearing surgical gloves and preparing the coronavirus COVID-19 vaccine (2019-nCoV) first Coronavirus vaccine found in the world.

Credit: Getty Images

The Ethics of Species Modification in the Environment

 

My current research explores how the ethical and policy dilemmas arising from the deployment of gene drive-modified organisms are framed in media and public discourses and how various socioeconomic forces (e.g., global philanthropic organizations, environmental activism, research communities, and stakeholders) shape the public dialogue on this biotechnological innovation.  Gene drives based on the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system are a novel and powerful genetic engineering method that defies the laws of Mendelian inheritance by allowing genetic dominance of specific traits and their spread at an enhanced rate in nearly 100% of the next generation. While the technology has potential promising applications for the prevention of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and lime disease, in agriculture, and for ecosystem preservation, the impacts of introducing species modification directly into the environment are difficult to forecast. I looks at how gene drives are perceived as technical, policy and political anomalies in the policy arena, and identifies what fundamental changes in the regulatory frameworks for biotechnology will be required to address this problem.  

An Anopheles stephensi mosquito obtains a blood meal from a human host through its pointed proboscis.
Credit: CDC/Jim Gathany

Into the Unknown: Framing Uncertainty and Risk in News Media Portrayal of Gene Drives

COMPLETED RESEARCH PROJECTS

Public Representations, Ethical Issues and Policy Considerations in Predictive Genetic Testing (2014-2018, three published studies in BMC Medical Ethics, Journal of Science Communication, and Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada).

The gene patent controversy on Twitter: A case study of Twitter users' responses to the CHEO lawsuit against Long QT gene patents

Media portrayal of non-invasive prenatal testing: A missing ethical dimension

Non-invasive Prenatal Testing and the Unveiling of an Impaired Translation Process

The Changing Landscape of Canadian and International Regulation of Stem Cell Research  (2014-2017, a policy recommendation paper in EMBO Reports with funding from the Stem Cell Network and a book chapter forthcoming in an edited collection published by Nomos Publishing with funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), within the project "Moral Frontiers of Regenerative Medicine Regarding the Use of  Human Embryonic Stem Cells").

Media and Public Representations of Stem Cell Research and Therapy (2014-2017, three studies published in Stem Cell Reviews and Reports, Science Translational Medicine and Asian Bioethics Review with funding from the Stem Cell Network and the Canadian Institute for Genomics and Society)

Click on the link for a full text of our study on stem cell tourism and social media:

Representations of Stem Cell Clinics on Twitter

Click on the link below to access my publication in Asian Bioethics Review:

Media portrayal of stem cell research: towards a normative model for science communication

Click on the link below to read an article in Los Angeles Times about our study in Science Translational Medicine:

New study: Stem cell field is infected with hype

Stem cell hype: Media portrayal of therapy translation

The Angelina Jolie Effect: Media Representations and Public Attitudes Towards Predictive Genetic Testing for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancers (2013-2015, with funding from Genome Canada, Genome Alberta, CIHR, Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions, and Genome Quebec)

Click on the link below to read an article in PLOS Blogs about our study in Genetics in Medicine:

The Angelina Effect and the Mixed Blessing of Celebrities and Risk Awareness

Time Magazine Cover on 15 May 2013

Photograph: Melodie McDaniel / Trunk Archive

Citizens' Jury on Internet Voting in Edmonton (2012-2013, Principal Investigator, with funding from the City of Edmonton)

Partnership between the University of Alberta's Center for Public Involvement and the City of Edmonton to assess public attitudes on the adoption of e-voting in civic elections through surveys and stakeholder consultation and engage citizens directly in decision-making through a Citizen's jury process.

The Edmonton Citizens’ Jury on Internet Voting

 

Public Engagement with Internet Voting in Edmonton: Design, Outcomes, and Challenges to Deliberative Models

Citizen Jury Extended Interview with Dr. Kamenova & Dr. Goodman

Center for Election Science