Vicarious Trauma: A Webinar on Risky Research, Mental Health, and Harm Reduction

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The event below has been postponed due to an unexpected scheduling conflict. We will post an updated date and time for the webinar here in the near future.


Joan Donovan
Research Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy
Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy
Harvard University

Jacquelyn Mason
Senior Investigative Researcher and Special Projects Manager
First Draft

Elana Newman
Research Director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma
McFarlin Professor of Psychology
University of Tulsa

Sarah Sobieraj
Professor of Sociology
Tufts University

Claire Wardle
Co-Founder and Leader of First Draft
Research Fellow at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University


About the Webinar: 

As social researchers (academics and journalists alike) perform the vital work of investigating conspiracy theories, hatred, extremism, and misinformation, we encounter disturbing and traumatizing content on a daily basis. Exposure to these images and beliefs has consequences for our mental health and careers. Awareness of the risks to researchers has been growing, but are we doing enough to protect ourselves, our colleagues, and our students? In addition, some face threats, doxxing, and harassment that target our ethnicity, race, gender, and other markers of identity. What should we tell our students as they consider research tracks in the dark corners of the web?


In order to continue this conversation and further destigmatize mental health concerns, the Social Science Research Council’s MediaWell program, the Shorenstein Center, and First Draft are hosting this webinar on mental health care and trauma awareness for disinformation and extremism researchers.


This webinar will also discuss new research from First Draft, who have recently released a report on the full range of harmful content—disinformation, conspiracies, hyper-partisan content and so on—and its impact on journalists and researchers. They will elaborate on three questions:

  • How does the mental impact of monitoring disinformation, conspiratorial content and other harmful content compare with that experienced by journalists and researchers monitoring graphic imagery?
  • Is the impact different based on gender, race and religion?
  • Do those who work in this field use techniques to mitigate the impact?

We particularly will be highlighting the concerns shared by scholars of color, women, LGBTQ, and people from other constituencies who may face added risks or harassment based on their identities.

Please join us for Vicarious Trauma: A webinar on risky research, mental health, and harm reduction.

About the Participants: 

Joan Donovan: Joan Donovan is the Research Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Dr. Donovan leads the field in examining internet and technology studies, online extremism, media manipulation, and disinformation campaigns. Prior to joining Harvard Kennedy School, Dr. Donovan was the Research Lead for Data & Society’s Media Manipulation Initiative, where she led a large team of researchers studying efforts to manipulate sociotechnical systems for political gain.

Jacquelyn Mason: Jacquelyn Mason is Senior Investigative Researcher at First Draft. Her research focuses on disinformation targeting Black and Latinx communities. She holds an MFA from Parsons School of Design with a degree in Art, Media and Technology, as well as a Master of Science from NYU Tandon School of Engineering in Integrated Digital Media.

Elana Newman: Elana Newman, McFarlin Professor of Psychology at the University of Tulsa, is the Research Director for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Dr. Newman’s scholarly work in journalism and trauma focuses on understanding the occupational health of journalists who cover traumatic events, evaluating training needs, analyzing trauma-related news, and examining the effects of journalistic practice on consumers and individuals covered in the news.

Sarah Soberaj: Sarah Sobieraj is an award-winning teacher and researcher with expertise in US political culture, extreme incivility, digital abuse and harassment, and the mediated information environment. Her most recent book, Credible Threat: Attacks Against Women Online and the Future of Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2020), examines the impact of identity-based digital abuse on women’s participation in social and political discourse.

Claire Wardle: Claire Wardle is a leading expert on social media, user generated content, and verification. Dr. Wardle is the co-founder and leader of First Draft, the world’s foremost nonprofit focused on research and practice to address mis- and disinformation. First Draft is housed at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University where Dr. Wardle is a Research Fellow.