Grant for research into rules of behaviour for (future) pandemics

ZonMw is funding a large social science research project on how we can prepare properly for future pandemics. This research forms part of the Pandemic Preparedness knowledge programme. A consortium of twelve universities (including Utrecht University), TNO, Pharos, Trimbos and RIVM will together receive 1.6 million euros.

The name of the partnership that will conduct the research is BePrepared – as in, be prepared for a new pandemic.

Side effects of prevention measuresmaatregelen

During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments introduced prevention measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. These measures were supposed to help prevent a collapse of the health care system and avoidable deaths. The order to limit social contact was an example of such a measure. However, such measures can also impair people’s well-being (social, mental, physical, financial) and restrict their freedom. This may have repercussions. Support for the introduced prevention policy may decline, as may compliance. The measures may also have an effect on trust in the government.

Four research themes

The social science researchers in the BePrepared consortium were already working closely together during the coronavirus pandemic. Now they will explore how the Netherlands can prepare more adequately for an outbreak of infectious diseases in the future. The research will focus on four themes:

  1. What socio-psychological and environmental factors determine whether people support and comply with the measures?
  2. How can the resilience of citizens and communities be strengthened, and what is the role of involving citizens and civil-society organisations in policy?
  3. How can social science advice be formulated and used more effectively in pandemic policy development and government communication?
  4. How can research methods be improved, so that in the future we will have better data with which to model the effects of different types of behavioural and social interventions?

ISS and M&S

Utrecht University is represented in the BePrepared consortium by Professor John de Wit, Head of the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science, and Peter Lugtig, Associate Professor in the Department of Methodology and Statistics. In addition to them, two UU postdocs will also work on this project.

Toolkit for policymakers

The ZonMw funding will initially run for one year. BePrepared will review literature, analyse existing data, administer questionnaires, conduct experiments, and interview citizens and policymakers. In this way, the consortium aims to learn how future pandemic policy can be designed and adapted more adequately. This should lead to a more extensive toolkit for municipalities, municipal public health services, RIVM and policymakers.