Research Alignment with Public Concerns in Diabetes colloquia with Dr. Fereshteh Didegah

Join us for a colloquium talk with Dr. Fereshteh Didegah from UBC iSchool.


Research Alignment with Public Concerns in Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious health problem that has nearly doubled in prevalence among adults in the last three decades. Although some clinicians and health care professionals warn about risks of misinformation on the web and online platforms (Murray et al., 2003), patients are more inclined to search online than to ask their doctors when looking for support and guidance in making health care decisions (Greene et al., 2011). As patients and the general public access information and find value in online platforms particularly discussion forums, we posit that their posts and discussions can also be valuable sources of information to learn what the public is interested in and concerned about. This information may in turn inform a broad community including patients, practitioners, researchers, civil society organizations, and private firms in deciding policies and taking appropriate actions to improve health outcomes for those affected by diabetes. As such, this research aims to use online discussions around diabetes to identify areas of public interest or concern and to compare them to those being discussed by researchers in scholarly publications. Doing so will shed light on the extent to which researchers are responding to the public’s interests and concerns, and to the level of uptake of the research in the public sphere. The results show a misalignment between what researchers have been publishing in diabetes and what the general public has been discussing online. While articles published in diabetes journals mainly focus on diabetes testing, treatments and disease control, the public mainly discuss about Type 2 diabetes, emotional support and proper diet for diabetic patients. The misalignment found between research interest and public interest may be informative for the scientific community and health policy makers in diabetes to value some understudied areas that are of higher interest to public and for libraries to more widely engage in co-creation/co-production projects to help transfer the knowledge more efficiently between academia and society.


Dr. Didegah is a lecturer at the iSchool, where I teach classes on database design and scholarly communications. I am also a research associate at the Scholarly Communication Lab, Simon Fraser University, where I am collaborating in a SSHRC funded project on understanding the societal impact of research through social media. My research focus is on how academic research is communicated to society and enhancing interactions between lay people and academia to understand each other. I am interested in examining different ways and factors that can enhance these interactions.