Leading Research Council Announces New Digital Platform for Disinformation Scholarship

The Social Science Research Council launched MediaWell, its latest initiative towards improving lives through healthier democracy

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, before an audience of policymakers, media, academics, and members of the public, the Social Science Research Council announced the launch of MediaWell, the Council’s latest digital initiative that represents an effort to unite the resources of academia to address the impact of disinformation on democracy.

In light of the growing impacts of disinformation, misinformation, and fake news, scholars globally have increased their attention to studying these phenomena. The resulting volume of research, scattered across a variety of academic fields, has made it difficult for funders, journalists, policymakers, institutions, and even scholars to stay current. MediaWell seeks to eliminate these challenges to productive disinformation scholarship by bringing together researchers, news, and analysis from across fields and in real time.

Throughout its 95-year history, the nonpartisan and cross-disciplinary SSRC has built and consolidated academic fields to support scholarship answering real-world needs.

“For nearly a century, the Social Science Research Council has worked in the spaces between government, media, academia, and the funding community to enable scholarship on the vanguard for the public good,” said Alondra Nelson, president of the Social Science Research Council. “MediaWell is not only our next effort in our digital portfolio, but also a true expression of the Council’s mission in a digital age. This will enable the kind of scholarship necessary to understand the impact of disinformation in our society.”

By uniting scholars from different fields with a diverse group of stakeholders across sectors, MediaWell will centralize research around topics related to disinformation’s impact on media and democracy. This centralization will allow easier cross-disciplinary understanding and collaboration, as well as accommodate the increasing volume and velocity of social science research in 2019 and beyond.

“Technology has not only changed what scholars study and journalists report on, but also the manner and speed in which we share and circulate that knowledge,” said Jason Rhody, director of SSRC’s Media & Democracy program. “The MediaWell platform is built to curate the most recent and relevant findings on disinformation so that readers and policymakers are best prepared to take on challenges of information disorder in the coming election.”

The cornerstone of this new initiative is an online platform, which includes:

  • Research briefs summarizing the most recent research on mis- and- disinformation
  • Original, in-depth reflections from a diverse array of experts
  • A link aggregation service curating recent news
  • A library of citations
  • A scholar profile directory
  • A calendar of events

The Council also kicked off MediaWell’s live event offerings today with Vision 2020 at the Top of the Hill conference center in Washington D.C.. The panel of leading stakeholders in the production and outcomes of disinformation research addressed the progress of the new academic field and its needs in advance of the coming American presidential election. Participants included:

  • Amy Mitchell, Director of Journalism Research at the Pew Research Center
  • Karen Kornbluh, Director of Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative at the German Marshall Fund of the United States
  • Brendan Nyhan, Professor, Department of Government, Dartmouth College
  • Julia Angwin, Editor-in-Chief, The Markup

A full video of Vision 2020 will be available on http://mediawell.ssrc.org in the coming weeks

The Council will continue its support of dis- and- misinformation scholarship in the hopes that these efforts will prove useful to regulatory, industry, and institutional efforts to strengthen political discourse, reclaim the democratic potential of social media, reduce the spread of hatred and incivility, and strengthen our democracies.

“Like so many of our institutions today, our nation’s public sphere is under assault from a range of bad actors, who exploit the reach and prevalence of social media in our lives to promote disinformation, drive greater polarization, and undermine our ability for political consensus,” said U.S. Senator Mark Warner. “I am grateful for the SSRC’s critical efforts to develop credible, privacy-attentive methods to track the myriad ways technology continues to be exploited – efforts that will be imperative to informing Congress on how to address these threats.”

The SSRC is grateful to its funders, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Rita Allen Foundation, and Reid Hoffman, without whom this project would not be possible.

About the SSRC:
The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is an independent, international nonprofit with the mission of mobilizing social science for the public good. Founded in 1923, the SSRC fosters research innovation, nurtures new generations of researchers, deepens inquiry within and across disciplines, and catalyzes public knowledge on important public issues. Based in Brooklyn, NY, the SSRC currently administers 22 programs in the United States and around the world. For more information on the SSRC and its programs, please visit www.ssrc.org