The WHO has declared two pandemics: one related to the COVID-19 virus, the other to information. [1] This COVID-19 ‘infodemic’ is marked by an overabundance of information, often mixed with rumours and misinformation. [2]

Fighting the ‘infodemic’ is essential for two reasons. First, experts and policy makers need to know how to effectively communicate advice and policies. Second, the public needs to be well-informed to help containing the spread of the virus – but at the same time maintain democratic processes. The role of scientists is crucial to this flow of information.


We conduct systematic and anonymous surveys as the crisis unfolds. We target scientists working in all disciplines affected by COVID-19. This includes medicine and biology, but also social sciences, economics and humanities. We will run our surveys at monthly intervals. Thereby, we hope to capture how scientsits’ behaviour changes over the course of the pandemic.

In midst of the ‘infodemic’, scientists need to keep themselves informed and act as experts by communicating information online. Our surveys capture the key characteristics [3] of this information seeking and spreading process:

  • who – what is the target audience of the communication?
  • what – which information is communicated or sought?
  • where – on which medium does the communication take place?
  • when – in which situation does it occur?
  • why – what is the underlying motivation?
  • how – which strageties do scientists follow?

Moreover, we want to understand how the information flow between traditional media (e.g., news platforms), social media and Wikipedia interacts. Our survey data will complement quantitative data (e.g., from Twitter) with insights about participants’ motivations.


We will share our insights with government, health officials and experts to improve their communication practices. Only now, while the crisis is unfolding, can we capture how scientists adapt their information behaviours.

The data generated by this project will be useful for future studies of scientists’ information behaviour in time of crisis. Hopefully, it will contribute to improve science communication strategies now and in the future.


[1] Zarocostas, John. 2020. ‘How to Fight an Infodemic’. The Lancet 395 (10225): 676.

[2] Cinelli, Matteo, Walter Quattrociocchi, Alessandro Galeazzi, Carlo Michele Valensise, Emanuele Brugnoli, Ana Lucia Schmidt, Paola Zola, Fabiana Zollo, and Antonio Scala. 2020. ‘The COVID-19 Social Media Infodemic’. ArXiv:2003.05004 [Nlin, Physics:Physics], March.

[3] Case, Donald Owen, and Lisa M. Given. 2016. Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior. 4th edition. Bingley, UK: Emerald.