June 4, 2020

Media Spotlight: CLS/NSLI-Y Alumna Rhys Leahy’s Coronavirus-Related Research Gets Highlighted by the NYT

With all the misinformation surrounding the coronavirus, is the world in danger of a vaccine-related info war? That’s the question the New York Times was trying to address when one of its reporters reached out to exchange alumna Rhys Leahy and her colleague, Neil Johnson.

Johnson and Leahy, who studied Persian in 2014 as a participant in the Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS) and studied in Russia during 2011-2012 as part of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth program (NSLI-Y), lead a research team at George Washington University. Their team did a study that mapped the online competition between pro- and anti-vaccination views; it was recently published in the science journal Nature, a leading multidisciplinary science journal in the United States. 

Leahy and Johnson “expected to find a strong core of ‘vanilla’ science — people saying that vaccines are good for you” — but that’s not what they found at all, Johnson told the NYT. “We found a real struggle online, where the public health establishment and its supporters are almost fighting in the wrong place.”

From the results of their study, Leahy and her team hope that their insights “can inform new policies and approaches to interrupt this shift to negative views.”  

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