I’m an Expert… Why Aren’t You Listening to Me?!

Purpose

The ability to communicate about a scientific topic in a manner that is trusted and compelling is known as “scientific discourse.” The highly globalized, connected, and digital world in which we live today is overwhelming audiences with information sources, many of which are not evidence based. Many mainstream topics have already transcended the realm of simple data presentation and entered the complexities of socio-scientific issues that encompass conflicting principles of ethics, cultural perspectives, and economic theories or human livelihoods. For many complex scientific topics, the dearth of public knowledge and engagement has led to confusion and misunderstanding, exacerbated by the public perception of the media’s authority. Mistaken information and extreme opinions often promote messages of blame. Regardless of subject matter or audience, Extension professionals are expected to impact stakeholder knowledge and behavior through programming that is evidence-based – and often extraordinarily complex. STEM professionals seeking to navigate this information space need new strategies for breaking out from the pack and targeting audiences with new and innovative methods of outreach. This is especially true in emerging and potentially controversial issues like antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

This session – curated by members of the iAMResponsible Project, a nationwide outreach program focused on AMR from the perspectives of food producers and food consumers – will feature experts in science communication discussing scientific discourse. Participants in this session can expect to:

    • gain knowledge about evidence-based rhetorical elements of successful communication;
    • learn new ways to approach communication-based on lessons learned from past and current health communication efforts,
    • and generate innovative ideas for programming based on a proposed model for message design and delivery.

A moderated panel of communication experts will discuss how the public forms their perceptions of science information, the kind of information sources they trust and seek out, and how socioeconomic and cultural differences impact audience engagement with scientific information.

Panel

Amy Schmidt, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska (Moderator)

Having grown up in rural Iowa, Amy appreciates the agricultural production systems that feed people worldwide and chose her career path to support responsible livestock production by helping farmers adopt research-based practices that optimize agronomic productivity and minimize potential environmental and social risks. Keeping up with two active kids, her husband, and their family dog is her other full-time job! She spends a lot of evenings and weekends cheering on her kids at baseball and softball games, about as much time scrubbing dirt and grass stains out of white baseball pants, and not nearly enough time sleeping.

Panelists

Kari Nixon, Assistant Professor, Whitworth University

Kari Nixon is an assistant professor at Whitworth University. Her research focuses on the mutually constitutive nature of social understandings of death, disease, and community. Formerly studying to be a clinical psychologist with an emphasis in data science, she shifted to the humanities early on in her graduate career. Her work has appeared in Disability Studies Quarterly and Journal for Medical Humanities, among others. Her co-edited collections, Endemic: Essays in Contagion Theory and Syphilis and Subjectivity were published with Palgrave in 2016 and ’17, respectively. Her first monograph, Kept from All Contagion: Germ Theory, Disease, and the Dilemma of Human Contact was published in June 2020 with SUNY UP, and her mass-market book teaching lay audiences how to critically interpret COVID-19 public health messaging came out through Simon and Schuster in June 2021

David Lansing, Associate Professor, University of Maryland-Baltimore County

Dr. David Lansing is an Associate Professor in Geography and Environmental Systems at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Growing up in Wyoming and spending many years in rural areas across Central America, Dr. Lansing has witnessed all types of farming styles and livelihoods. Since 2005 his research has studied how conservation policy is formed and implemented, and the effects such policies have on the land use decisions and livelihoods of farmers. He has conducted research in Costa Rica, Honduras, Maryland, New York, and Nebraska. His more recent work is focused on how various land use stakeholders conceive of the environment, how this affects their approach toward sustainable farming practices, and their relationship toward environmental regulations. He is currently undertaking this approach through a multidisciplinary project that studies changing antibiotic use practices across dairy and beef cattle industries.

Andy King, Assistant Professor, Iowa State University.

Dr. Andy King conducts research in strategic health, science, and risk communication, focusing on message design and campaign evaluation. His work advances applied communication theorizing relevant to message design and message processing, with the goal of contributing to improving public health through evidence-based practice. Much of his research has looked at the role of visual imagery and its influence in strategic health messages. He has published over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles in outlets including Journal of Health Communication, Cancer Epidemiology, Risk Analysis, Journal of Communication and Health Communication and has received research funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration and the National Institutes of Health. He serves on the editorial boards for Communication Monographs and Journal of Health Communication. He is a senior editor at Health Communication.

Acknowledgements

Funding for the iAMR Project was provided by USDA-NIFA Award Nos. 2017-68003-26497, 2018-68003-27467 and 2018-68003-27545. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2022. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Oregon, OH. April 18-22, 2022. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Impacts of social media on public awareness and behavior related to antimicrobial resistance

Purpose

Antimicrobial resistant (AMR) infections are a significant threat to public health. That is why a nationwide coordinated effort among university outreach programs to convey science-based knowledge on AMR dynamics to stakeholders, was established using the moniker the iAMResponsible (iAMR) project in 2019. The project title, “iAMResponsible”, is intended to convey that everyone has an obligation to understand AMR and learn how they can adapt to using science-based practices to mitigate AMR and preserve the efficacy of antibiotics for future generations. The iAMR project seeks to cooperate with related efforts to leverage resources and amplify dissemination of AMR-related educational information. The objectives of the iAMR project are to: (i) increase nationwide capacity to develop AMR related educational content, (ii) facilitate the dissemination of research-based materials through a national network of project members and collaborators, (iii) effectively engage audiences of disparate backgrounds on a shared responsibility for AR, and (iv) empower behavioral change among different audience groups that preserves the efficacy of antibiotics. While the activities of the iAMR team are varied, this study assesses the network building and communication efforts of the iAMR Project on social media.

What Did We Do?

The use of social media to build communication capacity for AMR outreach was measured by the following metrics: total followers and frequency of keywords in search of follower profiles using tools from Followerwonk.com.

For this study the efficacy of social media dissemination was measured in the total impressions (number of users who saw a post) earned by outputs, and the geographical spread of follower locations. Both impressions and follower location are measured by native analytics tools available on various social media.

This study uses the engagement rate, provided by social media analytics to measure audience interest in published materials (engagement rate is the percentage of audience who saw the post and interacted with the post in some way–interactions include retweets, likes, link clicks, follows, media opens, etc.). Native (available from the social media platform) analytics data also allowed us to assess the relationship of engagement rate to specific message factors. To measure audience interest in specific topics, engagement rate was determined for tweets containing keywords and symbols.

To assess the use of social media for motivating behavioral change in the audience, the team developed a 20-question survey with questions on attitudes towards antibiotics, AMR, and the iAMR project. Beginning in the spring of 2020, the team has promoted the same survey annually on different social media platforms to determine attitude changes over time.

What Have We Learned?

Total following for iAMR social media accounts is now just over 4000 (4096 as of Feb 7, 2022). Looking at the most frequently appearing keywords appearing in follower profiles provides some insight into who the followers are (Figure 1). Preeminent among these keywords are “public health,” “antimicrobial resistance,” “infectious diseases,” and “PhD student.” Given this collection of terms we can infer that the iAMR audience likely has a strong interest in and awareness of public health threats like AMR. This would indicate that while iAMR has been effective at building a network among interested, engaged and knowledgeable people in scientific fields, but less adept in reaching audiences with little awareness of AMR or those working in agriculture or food safety fields.

Figure 1: Word cloud of terms included in the biographies of iAMResponsible’s social media followers. Created by Followerwonk.com

iAMR posts have earned roughly 1,000,000 total impressions (948,266 as of Feb 7, 2022) on 720 total posts, or roughly 1300 impressions per post. Impressions measure only the times a user has seen a post they are not a measure of audience engagement. Therefore, while impressions function as a measure of dissemination they are not a reliable measure of the communication impact. In the examination of the geographical reach of iAMR followers (Figure 2) it is evident that iAMR has a larger international than domestic audience, with a particularly large node in Great Britain.

Figure 2: iAMR’s global social network. Node colors indicate size of the nearby audience, blue (1-9), yellow (10-99), red (100-999). Total >4000 worldwide

Overall engagement by audience members with posts from iAMR activity are illustrated in (Figure 3). For the 702 (as of Feb 7, 2022) posts iAMR generated roughly 21 engagements per post, of those engagements roughly 2 were link clicks, about 5 were shares, and 9 were likes. In the context of the per tweet average for impressions (1350) these numbers seem very low but in fact the overall engagement rate of 1.53% is above average (in 2020 average engagement was 0.07% on Twitter, 0.27% on Facebook, 1.16% on Instagram).

Figure 3: Overall engagement by audience members with posts from iAMR, as of Feb 7,2022

To examine what topics were of particular interest to the audience the engagement rate data was broken down by keywords contained in the body of iAMR’s posts, the mean engagement and 95% confidence interval for posts containing the keywords are illustrated in Figure 4. In this examination of user engagement based on post characteristics, the highest engagement was associated with posts containing an “@” symbol. Whereas users were less likely to engage with posts containing the words livestock, agriculture or prescription when compared to the overall engagement with iAMR’s posts.

Figure 4: Average engagement rates for iAMR’s social media content containing keywords or symbols; error bars indicate a 95% confidence interval for mean engagement rate.

Audience engagement with AMR attitude and behavior survey has been low and because most participants respond to only some of the survey questions of the 335 total responses which have been logged during the past 3 years, many key questions have response numbers as low as 9. As a result, we do not have enough data to statistically assess our survey results and present the following as results as instructional rather than conclusive (Table 1).

Table 1: Proportion of Social Media Audience Responding Affirmatively to Selected Web Survey Questions
40% (n=40) Have a medical, doctoral or veterinary degree.
90% (n=51) Expressed concern about growing AMR
65% (n=63) Said they regularly tell others about AMR.
100% (n=23) Said they considered iAMR a reliable source for information on AMR.

Future Plans

Based on audience profiles and content engagement the iAMR account has done a poor job reaching agricultural audiences, or audiences not already engaged with AMR.  Accordingly, future work will need to identify outlets, outside of social media, for engaging new-to-AMR audiences. However, there is value in cultivating the current account audience of engaged and expert users who could join the growing network of iAMR contributors and provide some level of expertise on outreach projects going forward. Moreover, survey results indicate that the current audience has developed trust in the iAMResponsible brand and the educational materials that the team has developed, which provides additional opportunities for dissemination of content into audience communication networks that might not be picked up by the analytical approach used in this assessment.

The iAMResponsible project team will continue efforts to identify educational needs, produce and curate research-based content intended to improve public awareness about AMR, and improve access among producers, consumers, and stakeholders to research-based information about potential AMR-related food safety risks

Authors

Mara Zelt, Research Technologist, University of Nebraska

Corresponding author email address

mzelt2@unl.edu

Additional authors

Juan Carlos Ramos Tanchez, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Nebraska; Amber Patterson, Extension Assistant, University of Nebraska; Amy Schmidt, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska

Additional Information

Project website

Twitter

Acknowledgements

Funding for the iAMR Project was provided by USDA-NIFA Award Nos. 2017-68003-26497, 2018-68003-27467 and 2018-68003-27545. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Antimicrobial Resistance From a One-Health Perspective: A Multi-Disciplinary University Instruction from Extension Professionals

Purpose

Contemporary issues faced by Extension professionals are often technically and politically complex, crossing a range of subjects, academic disciplines, and value systems. Addressing complex social issues to achieve desired impacts across disparate audiences requires collaborative efforts that engage multiple disciplines, represent unique geographic regions and cultural settings, and implement varying outreach methods. For example, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is truly a “wicked problem” as it is global, complex, and difficult to solve. It is a “big picture” issue that must be addressed at multiple smaller scales where values, beliefs, cultural norms, and habits collide with science, innovation, public policy, and behavioral science, all forming a complicated intersection of separate, yet linked, continuous feedback loops.

The iAMResponsibleTM Project, is a nationwide extension program working on outreach and education on AMR within agriculture, food production, and food safety systems. In 2019, the team prioritized two approaches to promote cross-disciplinary collaborations on AMR research and increase AMR-related outreach to disparate audiences: a) greater engagement of graduate students in understanding AMR and the value of their area of study to approaching this issue from a One Health perspective; and b) improved science communication skills among graduate students. To that end, we proposed the development of a web-based, graduate-level university course to expand the impact of iAMResponsibleTM programming by engaging students in learning about the scientific, cultural, and political aspects of AMR across relevant disciplines.

The primary objectives in offering this novel, web-based university course that integrates research-based learning with science communication were to:

    1. Facilitate optimal distribution and utilization of research-based, AMR-related food safety information and resources at the state, regional and national levels among future and current food producers and consumers; and
    2. Develop AMR/Food Safety content to fill existing gaps or emerging areas of significant needs that are not being addressed regionally, nationally, and globally.

What Did We Do

Multi-university instruction

Spring 2020

A one-credit, graduate-level seminar course exploring U.S. and global challenges related to AMR in food systems, research-based strategies to mitigate potential risks associated with AMR, and successful methods of communicating this complicated scientific topic to food producers and consumers was first taught simultaneously at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the University of Maryland. Instructors on site at each participating institution facilitated listing of the course in their course catalog to allow students to enroll for credit at the university where they are studying. Each meeting of the class featured invited presentations by experts from across the U.S. sharing research, policy, and communication perspectives on AMR.

Spring 2021

Following the same format as the initial offering, the course was taught simultaneously at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Maryland, North Carolina State University, University of Minnesota, and Washington State University.

Based on experiences and student feedback from the 2020 and 2021 offerings of the course, lecture topics for the 2022 offering include:

Topic Presenter
Introduction to antibiotic resistance one-health Dr. Amy Schmidt, University of Nebraska – Lincoln and Dr. Stephanie Lansing, University of Maryland
Principles of extension programming and outreach Dr. Joe Harrison, Washington State University
First fully live session: Introduction to the course and student expectations All Instructors
Impact of AMR on medical practice and human health Dr. Rosa Helena Bustos – head of clinical pharmacology at Universidad de la Sabana
Challenge of AMR for animal health care Dr. Paul Morley, Texas A&M University
The natural occurrence and current state of the AMR challenge for environmental pollution Dr. Thomas Ducey (USDA-ARS)
Guided panel: Environmental mitigations for AMR Panelists: Carlton Poindexter, University of Maryland; Dr. John Schmidt, USDA-ARS; Dr. Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, University of Nebraska;

Moderators: Dr. Stephanie Lansing and Dr. Mahmoud Sharara

Intervention and tracing of AMR in the food supply Aaron Asmus – Hormel Foods

Julie Haendiges, US-FDA

History of public attitudes towards microbiology and what it tells us about how to approach AMR Dr. Kari Nixon, Whitworth University
Alternating Spring Break Class activity on identifying and evaluating science communication
Alternating Spring Break Class activity on identifying and evaluating science communication
Worldwide Implications of AMR Student led examination of AMR as it is experienced around the world
Challenges in development of antibiotics and alternatives for antibiotics Dr. Glenn Zhang, Oklahoma State University
How to assign risk to AMR found in non-clinical settings Dr. Bing Wang, University of Nebraska
Dead week workday – students work time. Submit reports and recorded presentations by the end of the workday on Friday, April 22. Zoom rooms will be available as needed. Led by Dr. Noelle Noyes
Final project review Student project Q&A sessions

Science Communication

As a joint offering by several extension faculty, this course was designed not only to cover the fundamentals of AMR but also as an opportunity to introduce STEM students to important skills and concepts used by extension professionals. As a part of this multi-institution collaboration, students worked together with their peers across the country to review and develop research-based resources and methods for communicating scientific information about AMR to non-academic audiences. These efforts were facilitated by the inclusion of lectures on extension principles and science communication, and team-based outreach projects, to support development of outreach and educational thinking and skill development within students in STEM fields. Moreover, content created by students through team projects that produced well-designed outreach content were intended for dissemination by the iAMResponsibleTM Project. The result was the production of outreach materials that transcended expertise represented by project team members.

Evaluation methods

Methods for evaluating the content and delivery of this course have been adjusted with each subsequent offering. During the first year an informal focus group discussion was conducted with students at the end of the term to solicit feedback and suggestions for future iterations. Throughout the second session (2021) students filled out weekly surveys following each lecture, as well as a survey assessment of the course. Instructors were also asked to evaluate the course content and delivery following the 2021 offering.

Students are evaluated on a combination of participation in the course discussion (during the lecture period or online following the lecture) and on evaluation of student projects. The student projects include a large emphasis on teams cooperating to identify a target audience for their shared topic, establishing a shared goal for their audience, and creating impactful outreach products to achieve their intended outcomes. Moreover, as a part of their participation and evaluation for this course, students are asked to review the effectiveness of their peers’ outreach products and the peer critiques are incorporated into the final student evaluation for the course.

What Have We Learned

Feedback from the students

Results from the student focus group in 2020 were highly influential on the expanded instruction for science communication strategies and addition of international emphasis on AMR discussions in subsequent years. Survey results following the second session again highlighted the value the students placed in the instruction on science communication, audience identification, and navigating public attitudes toward AMR, science, and disease. Student participation in Spring 2020 (two institutions) and 2021 (five institutions) totaled 28 students. Evaluations by students revealed the following outcomes:

Student comments included:

Student surveys also indicated that the logistical issues surrounding the expectation for students to work with colleagues cross-institutionally on class assignments was the most significant challenge encountered. Accordingly, the syllabus for the current (Spring 2022) offering allocates more discussion time during lectures for students to grow more comfortable with one another and provides the students with a cross-institutional work environment on Slack to facilitate discussion outside of class time. We await the student evaluations from 2022 to provide a more detailed understanding of how these changes will affect student experience but, after 4 weeks of the course, the average weekly participation on Slack is holding at about 70% of participants who regularly check-in, read, or respond to discussion on the platform.

Feedback from the instructors

The development and delivery of this course has had the unintended consequence of providing an opportunity for the instructors of the course to also continue to learn and engage on this dynamic topic. Following delivery of the course in 2021, instructors were asked to evaluate the course content and delivery method, revealing the following data:

Future Plans

Utilization of course materials outside of the course

Lectures, and student projects developed during the first two offerings of the course have been repurposed and made available for a wider audience through the LPELC platform, further linking extension and classroom educational goals and providing the students in the course the opportunity to develop materials for immediate practical application within the national extension community.

How to apply the lessons learned for other extension issues areas

We believe that the results of the students’ evaluations indicate that the next generation of STEM professionals not only values expertise in extension skills but will actively seek to develop those skills for themselves if given the opportunity. Accordingly, we see a value in pursuing similar courses as part of an extension portfolio.

How to assess the long-term impacts

We will also seek to engage former participants in this course in an assessment of how the training received, in systems thinking, multidisciplinary collaboration, and science communication have been effective in their professional work in subsequent years.

Authors

Amy Schmidt, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
aschmidt@unl.edu

Mara Zelt, Research Technologist, University of Nebraska
Stephanie Lansing, Professor, University of Maryland
Rohan Tikekar, Associate Professor, University of Maryland
Mahmoud Sharara, Assistant Professor, North Carolina State University
Joe Harrison, Professor Emeritus, Washington State University
Noelle Noyes, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota

Additional Information

Selected course materials are available through the LPELC website

Acknowledgements

Funding for the iAMR Project was provided by USDA-NIFA Award Nos. 2017-68003-26497, 2018-68003-27467 and 2018-68003-27545. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2022. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Oregon, OH. April 18-22, 2022. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Swimmers beware, land application of manure can increase antibiotic resistance downstream

A summary of Catchment-scale export of antibiotic resistance genes and bacteria from an agricultural watershed in central Iowa by Neher et al. 2020

Key points

  • With some year-to-year variation, manure application increased antibiotic resistance surface water downstream of application site.
  • The CAMRADES team, led out of Iowa State University, will be expanding efforts to monitor and model AMR in agricultural watersheds in the region.

Continue reading “Swimmers beware, land application of manure can increase antibiotic resistance downstream”

Glossary of Antimicrobial Resistance

If you are just starting to learn about antimicrobials and resistance, first off welcome to the club, we are so happy to have more microbe obsessives! Second, we guessed you might have been encountering some words or concepts that you haven’t heard before. So, we’ve put together this visual glossary for you to explore. Search the table below for a word or unfamiliar phrase and you’ll find a definition AND videos or other websites where you can learn more about that concept. 

Continue reading “Glossary of Antimicrobial Resistance”

Antibiotic use in food animals and its effect on antimicrobial resistance spread and human health

Most people alive today have never known a world without antibiotics. Antibiotics became widely used to treat bacterial infections in the 1930s and ‘40s, and were quickly labeled a “miracle drug”. But, as the widespread use of antibiotics evolved, so did the discovery of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And we have now entered an era where antibiotic resistance is considered one of the biggest worldwide public health challenges of our time. Continue reading “Antibiotic use in food animals and its effect on antimicrobial resistance spread and human health”

We can learn a lot from poop

A summary of Using sewage for surveillance of antimicrobial resistance by Aarestrup and Woolhouse (2020)

Key Points

  • Sewage-based surveillance for antimicrobial resistance provides a flexible, scalable, and quickly implementable AMR tracking method.
  • Advances in DNA sequencing enable faster and more responsive resistance monitoring, which is essential to address AMR surveillance worldwide.

Continue reading “We can learn a lot from poop”

Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria in Surface Water Bodies

Antimicrobial resistance is a challenge that many face today in the agricultural field. As antibiotics and supplements are given to farm animals and their manure applied to crops and pasture, microbes are demonstrating resistance to antibiotics in agricultural settings. These bacteria have also been found residing in surface water bodies after being influenced by agriculture or animal production. These highly resistant bacteria have caused problems for human health with exposure to these bacteria.

Continue reading “Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria in Surface Water Bodies”

The growth of antibiotic resistance has become a serious threat to human health

A brief summary of the manuscript, Update on the Antibiotic Crisis by Rossolini et al. (2014)

Key Points:

  • Developing new antibiotics is only a stop-gap solution to a growing antibiotic resistance crisis.
  • Drugs able to treat the newest strains of resistant bacteria are still years away, while resistance continues to spread.

Continue reading “The growth of antibiotic resistance has become a serious threat to human health”

Composting can reduce antimicrobial resistance in manure

A brief summary of the manuscript, Dissipation of Antimicrobial Resistance Determinants in Composted and Stockpiled Beef Cattle Manure by Xu et al. (2016)

Key Points:

  • Composting manure can reduce pathogen presence and antimicrobial residues in manure.
  • Composting efficacy in reducing antimicrobial residues in manure is associated with elevated temperatures within the composting process.
  • Stockpiling manure marginally reduce pathogen presence and antimicrobial residues in manure when compared to composting.

Continue reading “Composting can reduce antimicrobial resistance in manure”