Health Research Board awards funding to two initiatives led by UCD Sociology researchers examining impacts of the Covid pandemic

6/1/2021

The Health Research Board (HRB) has awarded funding to Prof Siniša Malešević and Dr Ingrid Holme for two separate projects examining the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

1. World problem, national solutions? The impact of national past on behaviour during the pandemic.

Summary

Individual countries have developed very different strategies in responding to COVID-19, which can shape how citizens view the pandemic. How do different national traditions and past levels of trust in experts shape those national reactions?  A new project funded by the Health Research Board and the Irish Research Council will examine the perceptions of the pandemic in five European countries (Ireland, Sweden, Serbia, Germany and England), and look at how pre-existing levels of trust in the Government and in experts together with different national traditions are shaping the varieties of reactions to the pandemic. 

What is the issue?

Reactions to the pandemic can vary between countries, and this may be tied to different national traditions, past experiences and how people view and trust experts.

What will the research project do?

The research will explore how five European countries have reacted to the pandemic, and investigate if the reactions are shaped by past events and trust in experts. 

What will the impact be?

By finding out whether and how levels of trust in governments and experts shape pandemic responses, the project will help us to better understand reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lead Researcher Professor Siniša Malešević, Full Professor, University College Dublin School of Sociology, says: 

“COVID-19 is a uniquely global phenomenon that has affected the entire world, yet the responses to this pandemic were distinctly national, with every country pursuing very different policies of containment. In this project we aim to identify where these differences come from, and what role distinct national traditions and the past experience of trust play in shaping different policy responses.” 

Other team members: 

Dr Lea David, University College Dublin, School of Sociology

Dr Sarah Carol, University College Dublin, School of Sociology

Dr Gordana Uzalac, London Metropolitan University, School of Social Science  

2. Communicating COVID-19 cases and deaths: Co-production of media guidelines

Summary

During a pandemic, people have a right to reliable and relevant information. But constant media coverage of case numbers, illness and death has the potential to negatively impact people’s social and psychological wellbeing. A project funded by the Health Research Board and the Irish Research Council is will explore what information should legally and ethically be communicated, and provide guidelines for communicating in this pandemic and in future healthcare crises. 

What is the issue?

During a pandemic, people need information, but a long-term barrage of negative media reports can reduce people’s social and psychological wellbeing.

What will the research project do?

The research will look at how COVID-19 cases and deaths have been communicated by Irish and International media, assess what information needs to be reported and provide guidelines on how to report it without unnecessarily undermining social and psychological wellbeing.

What will the impact be?

The project will provide evidence-based guidelines for media reporting during healthcare crises, for this pandemic and beyond.

Dr Ingrid Holme, Senior Research Fellow, University College Dublin School of Sociology, says:

“For over nine months, there has been daily TV, newspaper and social media coverage of the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.  This information has played an important role in promoting public health measures.  But it also impacts how we feel and experience our social world.  Reporting of specific cases also raises ethical issues around the right to privacy.  By working with the Irish Hospice Foundation, and reaching out to other industry partners, we will be able to provide supportive guidelines for different media and communication channels.  This study is also a first step in the documentation of the scale and content of COVID-19 media coverage, paying particular attention to how people have responded to this media content." 

Other team members:

Dr. Barbara Gornicka: Research Fellow, University College Dublin School of Sociology

Dr. Ruben Flores: Research Fellow, University College Dublin School of Sociology

Prof. Gerardine Doyle Director UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School Associate Dean, UCD College of Business, UCD

Dr. Kate Frazer School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, UCD

Dr. Sian Joel-Edgar. Aston University, UK

Orla Keegan Irish Hospice Foundation

Prof. Thilo Kroll Health Systems Management. School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, UCD

Dr. Ronald Moore Schools of Public Health Medicine and Sociology, UCD

Sioban O'Brien Green, Irish Hospice Foundation

Dr. Shane O'Donnell School of Sociology, UCD

Dr. Claire O’Connell Freelance Journalist

Diarmuid Stokes College Liaison Librarian, UCD Library