The Covid infodemic
Competition and the hyping of virus research
Covid-19, the greatest global health crisis for a century, brought a new immediacy and urgency to international bio-medical research. The pandemic generated intense competition to produce a vaccine and contain the virus, creating what the World Health Organization referred to as an ‘infodemic’ of published output. In this frantic atmosphere, researchers were keen to get their research noticed. In this paper, we explore whether this enthusiasm influenced the rhetorical presentation of research and encouraged scientists to “sell” their studies. Examining a corpus of the most highly cited SCI articles on the virus published in the first seven months of 2020, we explore authors’ use of hyperbolic and promotional language to boost aspects of their research. Our results show a significant increase in hype to stress certainty, contribution, novelty and potential, especially regarding research methods, outcomes and primacy. Our study sheds light on scientific persuasion at a time of intense social anxiety.
Keywords: Covid research, hype, academic persuasion, scientific writing
Published online: 25 February 2021
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