From advice on mask wearing and vaccines to raising awareness around mental health and domestic violence, university experts were read, seen or heard up to 8 billion times from 1 February 2020 to 31 January 2021.
The analysis, commissioned by Universities Australia and compiled by media intelligence organisation Isentia, highlights the role that expert advice played in contributing to better health outcomes.
The report says the advice on mask wearing in particular “served to normalise the behaviour and so contributed to a consensus about their use in Australia.”
In her National Press Club address today, Universities Australia Chair Professor Deborah Terry will say the new research shows how Australians turned to trusted university experts during the crisis.
“Those epidemiologists, virologists and public health experts inoculated the public against the contagion of misinformation that infected many online forums and contributed to so much death and heartbreak overseas,” Professor Terry will say.
“University-based experts explained everything from the goal of flattening the curve, to the mathematics of social distancing, and the dynamics of panic buying. And, in doing so, they helped us navigate the disruption and uncertainty.”
“They kept us safe and prepared us for recovery.”
The Isentia research also found that in March last year a third of all stories on vaccines, along with one in every five stories on masks and one in 10 stories on lockdowns included the voice of university experts.
This builds on a new survey conducted by JWS Research that found that university experts remain one the most trusted groups of any major profession to ensure facts and evidence are part of public debates.
Professor Terry will say: “We trust our university-based experts, because they help us to make better decisions – informed by evidence – for the benefit of our families, our communities, our nation.”
“Universities are places where new ideas are tested – and conventional wisdom challenged.”
“Our universities promote and progress knowledge – and protect us from ignorance.”
The JWS national representative survey of 1,500 Australians – commissioned by Universities Australia – was conducted between 12 and 19 February 2021.