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CCU trio publish peer-reviewed article on COVID-19 and intelligence

February 1, 2021
Joseph Fitsanakis, Ph.D., associate professor of politicsAna Maria LankfordDerrick Storzieri

A Coastal Carolina University professor and two of his undergraduate students have published an article titled, "Spies and the Virus: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Intelligence Communication in the United States," in the peer-reviewed Frontiers in Communication open-access journal. The journal is considered one of the most prestigious open-access journals in the sciences and social sciences, and is the world's fifth most-cited publisher.

Joseph Fitsanakis, Ph.D., associate professor of politics, and Ana Maria Lankford and Derrick Storzieri, intelligence and national security studies majors, co-authored the article that was published in the journal's special issue on the topic: "Strategic Narratives in Political and Crisis Communication: Responses to COVID-19."

According to Fitsanakis, their research describes how the federal government's biological defense program offered actionable forewarnings about an impending pandemic, years prior to COVID-19, and why the means of strategic communication employed by intelligence experts to alert the White House to the threat were unproductive. Their article proposes that the U.S. Intelligence Community must implement more direct, immediate, and conclusive methods of communicating intelligence to decision-makers.

The idea for the article came after Lankford and Storzieri traveled to Washington, D.C., last spring to tour intelligence agencies. Around this time, COVID-19 shutdowns began, and the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB), a CCU student-run initiative supported by the Department of Politics, launched the COVID-19 Intelligence Project. The CIB equips students with the technical and soft skills required of analysts in the intelligence field. As a part of this project, Lankford reached out to Storzieri with the idea to co-author an article about COVID and the intelligence community.

"She though it was the right time, the perfect conditions, and that we would really have a chance to showcase our analysis at the academic level," said Storzieri. "After developing a sort of 'elevator brief' pitch, we contacted Dr. Fitsanakis, who eagerly agreed to work with us."

After the article was complete, Fitsanakis submitted it to Frontiers without telling his students about the journal's low acceptance rate. After a few months of waiting, Fitsanakis learned that the article was accepted for submission and informed Lankford and Storzieri of the exciting news.

"The feeling of having a peer-reviewed publication as an undergraduate student is incredible," said Lankford. "Research and writing are two things I take great pride in, and it gives me a great a sense of confidence to know that my work is now being cited in the academic world."

"It felt surreal, to be honest," said Storzieri. "We can all sit back and realize that our work will now be a part of a prestigious academic journal. I am really proud of the work we accomplished, and more so that this work will be reflective of the academics at Coastal Carolina."