MEZCOPH graduate student Davina Dobbins and her project partner Jasmine Frost, a PhD candidate from University of Manitoba, won an award in the #SciCommMake competition to create the “Covid Mythbusters” campaign on Instagram, a project to fight misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.
In late June of 2020, as the number of COVID-19 cases surged in Arizona and around the country, Davina Dobbins, an MBA/MPH student at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, wanted to help stop the virus. She was looking for ways to respond and saw an email promotion from the College about an upcoming science communication competition: #SciCommMake. She decided to enter.
At the time, Davina had no idea that more than a thousand miles to the north, in the Canadian province of Manitoba, Jasmine Frost, a PhD student in microbiology at the University of Manitoba, saw a promotion for the same competition. The #SciCommMake competition, hosted by SigmaXi (the Scientific Research Honor Society) and Science Talk (a professional society for science communicators) required applicants to submit an idea about how to improve COVID-19 communication with the general public, along with samples of their previous work. Both Davina and Jasmine applied.
The competition organizers accepted 50 finalists, then they cohosted an online mixer that brought together all the finalists in an effort to find applicants whose ideas aligned well. Jasmine and Davina were matched with each other because of their common interest in working with underserved populations, and their shared passion to reach younger audiences with reliable information.
Working together, they had 10 days to research and refine their approach, and then pitch their idea to a team of judges. After brainstorming and combining ideas, Davina and Jasmine decided to target young adults because COVID-19 cases had been increasing rapidly in that demographic over the summer. Their proposed project “Covid Mythbusters” on Instagram earned one of the ten awards given by #SciCommMake. Jasmine and Davina received a total of $1,000 (USD) to launch their page in mid-August. The budget allowed the team to hire a graphic designer, pay to promote posts on Instagram, subscribe to digital content applications such as Canva, and provide a small stipend to Davina and Jasmine as they managed the Instagram page, generated all written content, and began to refine their own design-skills.
The Duo’s Project Inspiration
During the summer of 2020 in the United States, adults in the 20-40 years old age range had higher case rates than adults in that same age range had recorded in other countries. At the time, case rates were high in both Arizona and Manitoba. Davina was passionate about improving ways to reach the young-adult audience, while Jasmine was interested in debunking misinformation surrounding coronavirus. Together, they launched the “Covid Mythbusters” Instagram page to counter bad information about the virus and spread science-based guidance to slow and stop the spread.
Covid Mythbusters Instagram Post Inspiration
Each week, the duo meets to discuss upcoming social events as well as coronavirus news so they can determine which topics to address in their posts. They often take suggestions from their followers and those who engage with their stories or send questions on the Instagram platform. Through early November, the team posted 2-3 times per week, then presented their outcomes at the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference on November 8, 2020. While the project requires several hours of time from both Davina and Jasmine each week, they continue to feel inspired when they see increased engagement from their users such as likes, shares, and meaningful questions and comments.
Davina and Jasmine have reached tens of thousands of people with their Covid Mythbusters posts, and although the project has officially run its course, they will continue to post on the Instagram page. The project has sharpened their science communication skills, and they have both learned a lot about how to shape messages that are both engaging and informative. Davina and Jasmine hope to keep the Covid Mythbusters page going so they can continue to address misinformation about COVID-19 and help stop the spread of coronavirus!
You can check out Davina and Jasmine’s Covid Mythbusters Instagram page at @covid_mythbusters https://www.instagram.com/covid_mythbusters
Name: Davina Dobbins, BS
Degree(s) seeking: Davina is an MBA/MPH student in Healthcare Management and Health Behavior Health Promotion at UArizona. She is also a senior instructional specialist in the Department of Physiology.
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona, USA
Name: Jasmine Frost, MSc., BSc.
Degree(s) seeking: Jasmine is a PhD Candidate Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease at the University of Manitoba.
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada