The University of Virginia honored faculty members across Grounds—including Professors Brent Kitchens, Steven L. Johnson, and Peter Gray—for their outstanding research contributions in 2021 at the third annual Research Achievement Awards Jan. 28.
The three were recognized for their research examining social media news consumption and the algorithms directing users toward content promoting more extreme views. The research was published in an MIS Quarterly paper titled “Understanding Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles: The Impact of Social Media on Diversification and Partisan Shifts in News Consumption.”
“We chose to work in this area because we felt it was an important issue to be addressed. But academic projects have a long timeline, and we couldn’t have expected how timely the work would be when it was published,” Kitchens said. “It has been very fulfilling seeing our work making an impact, being sought out by news outlets, and receiving recognition within and beyond our research community.”
“When we first started this research, we knew that we wanted to work on a problem that had real societal implications,” Gray noted. “We had seen the polarization that was happening in social media and in other aspects of civic life, and we realized that we had a set of complementary skills that could push thinking ahead on echo chambers and filter bubbles, and at the same time show what was actually going on in these places.”
Last June, their paper garnered Kitchens, Johnson, and Gray the Fellows of AOM Responsible Research Award. The professors also employed their findings as the basis for an op-ed piece published by The Washington Post in November 2020, which was then referenced in media outlets across the world, ranging from CBS News, The New York Times, The Guardian, and USA Today to Wired, Vox, and NPR.
The paper has received several other awards and accolades: winner of the Association for Information Systems Senior Scholar Best Paper Award; winner of the MIS Quarterly Best Paper Award; and runner-up for the Academy of Management Organizational Communication and Information Systems Best Published Paper Award.
“We are delighted to honor a strong and diverse cohort of faculty this year whose achievements in basic and public impact-focused research, mentorship, collaboration, and more reflect our core values as a research institution,” Melur “Ram” Ramasubramanian, UVA’s Vice President for Research, said.