A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. But not as dangerous as knowledge based on a web of misinformation and deceit. It is the perfect recipe for disaster. The recent pandemic has shown us the ease with which misinformation can do the rounds and expose large swathes of the population to the deadly coronavirus. The Mercury Project will fund initiatives across the United States, Latin America, Asia and Africa for a period of three years.
The Social Science Research Council launched The Mercury Project to try and stem the flow of mis- and disinformation plaguing the public healthcare infrastructure. The initiative will have a three-year lifeline and will work towards dispelling popular, unfounded myths regarding COVID-19. The Rockefeller Foundation will contribute $7.5 million as a seed fund, with another $2 million from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and $500K from Craig Newmark Philanthropies adding to the total.
The Mercury Project will fund initiatives across the United States, Latin America, Asia and Africa for a period of three years. This is the very first instance of a global platform being provided for organizations to share resources and information in the fight against public health misinformation on five continents. An annual convention is also being proposed where beneficiaries, researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders can devise joint recommendations.
Responding to the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Office of the Surgeon General and the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder’s call to action, The Mercury Project officially rolled out its Call for Proposals. Projects and teams committed towards identifying potential solutions and proposing tools and methods to support public health across the globe are invited to submit their applications.
Bruce Gellin, Chief of Global Public Health Strategy at The Rockefeller Foundation, stated that the issue was more than just a technology problem. “This requires swift, strategic, and synergized efforts embodied in the vision of The Mercury Project, a landmark effort to tackle these problems and build solutions we can use long after this pandemic is over to help protect us from any future pandemic threats,” he said.
His thoughts were echoed by Anna Harvey, President of the Social Science Research Council. She lamented that the pandemic exposed the susceptibility of the general public to misinformation and the present media environment was a major contributing factor. “But the evidence, data, and collaboration are cornerstones to solving many of society’s global issues, and the researchers in The Mercury Project consortium will lay the groundwork to improve public health now and for decades to come,” she opined.
The post-pandemic period continues to be trying times as public healthcare systems around the globe scramble to contain the spillover effects of the nasty virus. It will take more initiatives like The Mercury Project to stem the tide of misinformation that threatens the present world.