Digital media in crisis situations: rethinking their role and function

Digital media in crisis situations: rethinking their role and function

At this special online event held on Wales’ national day, St David’s Day, on 1st March 2021, our panellists discussed the role of the digital media on our public debate, attitudes and behaviour during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Over 100 joined the webinar from 23 countries across the world.


Chaired by Professor Ole Petersen, Vice-President for Academia Europaea, the panel included leading experts from Germany and Wales.

The event was organised as part of the strategic partnership between the universities of Bremen and Cardiff, together with the Wales in Germany 2021 campaign. To mark the special occasion, the webinar opened with words of welcome from Professor Rudolf Allemann, Cardiff’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, International and Student Recruitment and Professor Eva-Maria Feichtner, Bremen’s Vice-President International and Diversity. The Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, Professor Peter Halligan, representing the Welsh Government, gave a short presentation about Wales’ response to the pandemic and the role of science advice, with some observations on how it is communicated through the media.


The first panel speaker, Professor Andreas Hepp MAE, Professor of Media and Communications, University of Bremen, explored how digital media shapes and frames the way we have experienced and understood the coronavirus crisis, a process he terms as ‘deep mediatisation’.

Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Cardiff University, looked at what has been distinctive about the role the media has played during the crisis, particularly the important function played by community and local media.

Professor Ortwin Renn, Chair of the SAPEA Making Sense of Science for Policy Working Group, examined opportunities and risks at the interface between science advice, the media and the public, particularly during the pandemic.

The final speaker, Dr Dr Nicholas Clifton, introduced a new online tool, authentiSci. Its main aim is to provide the means by which members of the public can verify science-based articles that appear in the media, based on reviews submitted by scientists and scholars.

The second half of the event featured an interactive Q&A session with the online audience. Questions were varied and included the potential benefits and harms of community journalism; the impact of digital media on mental health and wellbeing; regulation of social media; engagement of researchers with social media; digital media literacy; and prospects for the future.

About the webinar

This event was a partnership between: Academia Europaea, University of Bremen, Cardiff University, SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) and in support of the Welsh Government’s Wales in Germany 2021 initiative which celebrates the strong ties between Germany and Wales.

Watch the webinar

Read the briefing paper

This briefing paper is a summary of the ideas discussed at the webinar.

More about AE Cardiff’s work in Science Advice

As a member of the consortium of European academies (SAPEA), Academia Europaea coordinated a major evidence review on best practice in science advice.  The report, Making Sense of Science for Policy, is available here.

4th March 2021. For further information please contact

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