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Kean’s Provost Wins Award to Share Facts About COVID-19

SciComm Make Award screenshot of logo

As misinformation about COVID-19 continues to spread along with the virus, Kean Provost and Vice President of Research and Faculty Jeffrey H. Toney, Ph.D. has received an award to help increase awareness and understanding through science.

Toney and a research partner were selected for a $1,000 award from Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, and Science Talk, a nonprofit science communication organization. They will produce a video that seeks to resolve confusion about the coronavirus in the context of the upcoming presidential election.

“Our goal is to produce a short video to convey the message, ‘The U.S. Presidential election 2020 will be the most divisive in our history, and COVID-19 doesn’t care,’” Toney said. “Our message is apolitical and nonjudgmental, using scientific evidence-based messages, recognizing that scientists and physicians learn more about this novel virus every day.”  

The Kean scientist is working with Stephanie Ishack, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Internal Medicine at New York University, who is also a visiting scholar at Weill Cornell Medical School. The two will use the award funds both to produce the video and to support a public awareness campaign on Instagram called Humans During COVID-19. Featuring selfies of people wearing masks, the Instagram campaign has drawn more than 650 followers within a few days of the launch. A prize will go to the best photo, Toney said.

“I’m delighted that I was selected as part of this winning team,” Toney said. “I am pleased to have this chance to use science to improve public understanding of this important issue. Our message is to turn ‘Me’ into ‘We.’  We can save lives by protecting each other.“ 

Toney said he plans to recruit an undergraduate Kean student researcher to contribute to the project in the fall.

Sigma Xi and ScienceTalk brought together scientists, artists and science communicators for the competition, called #SciCommMake. Ten teams were selected to receive funding for projects ranging from a COVID-19 educational video aimed at preschoolers to an outreach program for LatinX youth that will use viral mariachi videos.

Toney and Ishack will work with a videographer to create their video. It will be presented at the annual national meetings of Sigma Xi and Science Talk in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, respectively. 

The winners were named in this announcement video.