Centers and Programs Updates

Centers and Programs Updates

Centers and Programs Updates

Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Project

The Brechner Freedom of Information Project, a nonpartisan organization committed to equipping people with the tools they need to acquire government records, welcomed new director David Cuillier.

Some of the key accomplishments in 2023, included:

  • Aiding 76 journalists, students and other members of the public in getting public records and giving talks or trainings to 19 groups for a total of 547 people served.
  • Assuming leadership of national Sunshine Week to promote the public’s right to know. The Brechner FOI Project will collaborate with a variety of organizations to expand programming and public education in freedom of information.
  • In February 2024, publishing a campus media independence study that found that college news media lack significant protections from censorship, and those that have any protection are typically well-funded elite schools.
  • Launching a vexatious requests research project with a multi-university research team to find solutions for when people ask for a lot of information that overwhelms government agencies.
  • Debuting new freedom of information student awards, in collaboration with the Student Press Law Center, honoring college and high school students who use public records to shed light on their schools.
  • Becoming co-sponsor of the National Freedom of Information Coalition’s annual Freedom of Information Research Competition, bolstering the prize pool and taking on coordination to lead the way in recognizing and encouraging impactful FOI research.

Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project

The Brechner First Amendment Project is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to current and contemporary issues affecting the First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, thought, assembly and petition. Free press scholar Jane Bambauer was hired as the Brechner Eminent Scholar and new director of the First Amendment Project.

 Some of the key accomplishments in 2023, included:

Center for Public Interest Communications

The Center for Public Interest Communications is designed to study, test and apply the science of strategic communication for social change. The Center helps organizations discover how behavioral, cognitive and social science can unveil insights into how people think, make decisions and behave.

In 2023, the Center:

  • Named Media Production, Management, and Technology Associate Professor Yu-Hao Lee research director.
  • Worked with the Council on Foundations to help them build a research-informed strategy for narrative change in the philanthropic sector.
  • Supported the development of the Florida Digital Twin project with a user needs assessment. The project received $1.2 million as part of UF’s strategic funding initiative.
  • Provided communications support to the newly established UF Space Institute.
  • Expanded their strategic communication and science communication workshops to the public, which previously were offered only to UF organizations and the Center’s partners around the world.

 In 2024, the Center will be:

Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology

The Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology (CTMT) was created to foster a diverse community of scholars and thought leaders who will build an unparalleled ecosystem for the study of how media and technology can become more trustworthy, and develop programs for the application of new knowledge and tools and the creation of new policy and law.

The Consortium has been focused on building trust at the local and inter-personal level. Projects include:

  • Developing an AI tool to analyze local news for biased language and suggest better word choices.
  • Researching effective ways to facilitate discussions across political and social divisions, such as showing curiosity about others' ideas. CTMT Research Assistant Brittany Shaughnessy collaborated with Mónica Guzmán, the McGurn Fellow for Media Integrity and the Fight Against Disinformation, on this research.
  • Creating an AI-assisted local news site to serve underserved communities. The initial pilot project covers one Miami neighborhood, and there are plans to expand to rural North Florida. Seungahn Nah, the Dianne Snedaker Chair in Media Trust and CTMT Research Director, leads this effort.

STEM Translational Communication Center

The STEM Translational Communication Center (STCC) is comprised of social scientists and interdisciplinary researchers committed to improving communication surrounding STEM disciplines.

In May 2023, Advertising Associate Professor Benjamin Johnson assumed the role of STCC interim director. Johnson initiated a comprehensive six-month strategic plan aimed at elevating STCC's visibility and influence within the UF and STEM translational communication community.

The STCC is making progress on a number of fronts.

  • The STCC is growing its research expertise with a search for three key tenure-track or tenured faculty positions in health communication, cancer communication, and science communication. These new colleagues are expected to join the center and college in Fall 2024.
  • In a collaborative effort, STCC and the Center for Public Interest Communication joined a $14.8M grant application to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for a dedicated research center focusing on ocean toxicants.
  • Throughout the academic year, the center facilitated a weekly Friday morning journal club, encouraging in-depth discussions on diverse STEM communication topics. Faculty and students from different CJC departments participated, exchanging perspectives and probing questions on the featured readings.