Published: 27-04-2022 12:00 | Updated: 27-04-2022 12:04

Maike Winters is the recipient of the Sven Gard scholarship for the best thesis in virology in 2021

Maike Winters at the Department of Global Public Health, is awarded for her thesis "Contagious (Mis)Communication: the role of risk communication and misinformation in infectious disease outbreaks".

Photo of Maike Winters
Maike Winters, photo_Stefan Zimmerman

Sven Gard's scholarship is awarded annually for the best dissertation in virology. 

Maike Winters is awarded the prize for her dissertation "Contagious (Mis)Communication: the role of risk communication and misinformation in infectious disease outbreaks".The award includes prize money and a diploma. 

The motivation from the reviewers is as follows; 

"This thesis concerned the study of how communication and misinformation affected people’s understanding of risks and their behaviours during the Ebola virus outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2014-2016.

The work involved four cross-sectional surveys and semi-structured interviews with journalists. Finally, a randomised controlled trial tested two interventions to counter infectious disease misinformation. The work demonstrates the need for clear and understandable information to be available from trusted sources to empower people to make correct judgements of risk during an infectious disease outbreak.

Importantly, strategies for refuting misinformation are more likely to succeed if they directly engage with the misinformation rather than merely repeating the correct information.

The work is extremely timely, with many of the same concepts put into sharp focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. The work is presented in three papers published in highly respected journals and one manuscript. The nominee is first author on all four studies. Moreover, the frame of the thesis is exceptionally well written. The nominee’s background in psychology and journalism was clearly of great benefit to this work. We judge Maike Winters an excellent choice for the Sven Gard Prize for best PhD thesis in virology at KI 2021."