Group for Experimental Methods in Humanistic Research
at Columbia University

Health Language Lab

  • Elena Fratto
  • Rishi Goyal
  • Arden Hegele
  • Emily Madison
  • Dennis Yi Tenen
updates ↓

09/02/20 Columbia World Projects Announces Three Potential COVID-19 Projects in New Report.
04/09/21 What Can We Do to Reduce Vaccine Hesitancy? by Caroline Harting for Columbia News.
04/20/21 ‘Vaccine failure’ may be more common if you have a weakened immune system. Here’s why. by Katie Camero for Miami Herald.
04/26/21 Vaccine Hesitancy: You can’t answer a feeling with a fact from KGW News (NBC) in Portland.
05/21/21 Designed to Thrive: Communal Approaches to Collective Platforms by Dennis Tenen for The Reboot.
05/22/21 Op-Ed: Why ‘my body, my choice’ defines vaccine skepticism by Rishi Goyal, Arden Hegele, Dennis Tenen, for Los Angeles Times.
06/02/21 Residents Hesitant to Inoculate by Manabu Fujiwara writing for The Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese).
08/09/21 What Fresno County Can Tell Us about Why People Haven’t Gotten the Shot by Mina Kim with Rishi Goyal for KQED.
08/20/21 Using AI to Study Vaccine-Hesitant Language: Interview with Dr. Dennis Tenen on Your AI Injection.
09/13/21 Ask the Experts: 2021’s States that Vaccinate the Most by Adam Mcann writing for Wallethub.
09/14/21 Your questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, answered by Clara Hendrickson writing for the Detroit Free Press.
10/15/21 Our undergraduate research team wins first place at the 4th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, Columbia University.
10/21/21 Manabu Fujiwara, et. al. reporting for The Asahi Shimbun on Vaccine Mandates in the United States.
11/10/21 Increasing Public Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccines using NLP by Alexander Gary writing for PNW.AI

Vaccine hesitancy is not simply a matter of ignorance. Communities around the country are reluctant to vaccinate for all sorts of reasons: personal, religious, political, medical. By studying the language of vaccine-related conversations online–using computational analysis–our team of data and language researchers are revealing the deep seated causes of vaccine hesitancy, with the hope of improving vaccine messaging and ultimately increasing uptake.

Language matters. When declaring a “war on drugs,” for example, one should not be surprised if the treatment of addiction becomes militarized, involving further the use of excessive force in the policing of non-violent offences. Similarly, the framing of vaccine hesitancy in terms of ignorance further implies an uneducated public, alienating those who have real concerns about vaccination: in its compliance with Halal or Koshrut restrictions, in matters of healthcare and labor law, and in its sometimes troubled political history.

Understanding these differing concerns allows public health officials to tailor their pro-vaccination messaging to the specific sources of hesitancy, based on evidence collected from millions of conversations online. Matching ways of thinking and communicating ultimately improves community involvement in vaccination efforts.

Ethics charter here.

Research undertaken with funding from Columbia World Projects, in collaboration with the Research Data Services team at Columbia Libraries and Xyonix, AI for Good.

Institutional Partners

  • Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention
  • Ulster County (NY) Department of Health and Mental Health
  • The Vaccine Confidence Project

In Consultation With

Dates Entity
09/25/2020 Merck Global Medical Affairs, Vaccine Confidence Team
10/13/2020 Detroit Free Press
03/23/2021 G7 Global Vaccine Confidence Campaign
03/03/2021 Cabinet Office, Government of the United Kingdom
05/19/2021 Global Task Force on Pandemic Response: Mobilizing for India

Advisory Board

  • Noémie Elhadad, Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics (Columbia University).
  • Kathleen McKeown, Henry and Gertrude Rothschild Professor of Computer Science, Founding Director of Columbia’s Data Science Institute (Columbia University).

Student Research Associates

Bethel Ikenna Adiele (Laidlaw Foundation Scholar), Adiba Hussein (Barnard Summer Research Institute Fellow), Jane Rosalyn Paknia (xpMethod Research Fellow), Sharla Kirkpatrick (GSAS-Leadership Alliance Summer Research Program Fellow)

Team takes first place at Columbia's 2021 Undergraduate Research Symposium.
Team takes first place at Columbia's 2021 Undergraduate Research Symposium.

With participation from: Kimberley Gani, Pranav Menon, Lilith Todd, Meg Zhang