The consortium aims to answer research questions in a variety of projects.

Below we shortly list the topics of projects.

All details about each project such as presentations, research questions, preregistrations, and pre-prints can be found on the OSF page

Policy support & adherence regarding the government’s behavioural policies

Support from citizens for behavioural policies seems crucial for their adherence to such policies. The COVID-19 pandemic provides the context to investigate public support up close. What constitutes support for behavioral policies? Through a focused set of studies we aim to shed light on this question. In a first study, we investigate the link between support and adherence and explain fluctuations in support and adherence based on the pandemic context (stringency of policies, severity of the medical reality of the pandemic). In a second study, we investigate whether perceptions of procedural fairness with regards to the government’s decision making affects support for policies in the short term and in the long term. In other words, what factors are responsible for a decline in support?

Effective risk communication for citizens in future pandemics

Risk communication of basic information, e.g., transmission of pathogen, high-risk practices, can play a significant role in the control of an emerging pandemic by enabling people to take preventive actions. Effective risk communication relates with prior beliefs, values and concerns of citizens delivered by credible messengers as shown for COVID-19 and other environmental risks. Using a mixed method design of interviews and a survey, we will study citizens’ mental models for different pathogens with a high pandemic impact and compare these with the expert model. Thereafter, we will use focus groups and the mental models to co-create effective risk communication prototypes together with citizens and risk communication stakeholders. These prototypes will be evaluated in future research.

Assessing the impact of behavioural modelling

Finding versatile ways to implement behavioural components into epidemiological models is a long-term challenge. Not all pandemics behave in the same way; thus, there will not be a one-size-fits-all solution for embedding behaviour into transmission models. In this project, a groundwork for this challenge will be performed. This is done via two sub-projects.

The first subproject concerns a systematic literature search to generate a comprehensive overview of transmission models. Secondly, the most promising models will be used to conduct exploratory simulation studies to estimate under which conditions behavioural interventions are expected to generate relevant impact.

The work in this work package will result into two peer-reviewed publications, one for each subproject.

Social networks and COVID-19 vaccination

Social networks, our social relationships, play an important role in health and health behavior, including infection prevention behavior such as the appliance of non-pharmaceutical infection prevention measures. However, their role in vaccination intention and uptake during pandemics remains unclear. In the current project, we aim to identify the most important social network characteristics that contribute to adapting infection prevention behaviors such as COVID-19 vaccination intention and uptake. Data on social networks, health, and health behavior, including infection prevention behavior, of Dutch adults was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic in two cohort studies (SaNAE & PRIME cohort). Gaining more insight into social network factors contributing to vaccination intention and behavior should better prepare us to act adequately during an epidemic or pandemic. The results of this project contribute to developing a toolkit for pandemic preparedness, emphasizing the importance of social networks.

Psychosocial determinants of preventive behaviours

During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments implemented various behavioural policies and recommendations to reduce the spread of the virus, but the effectiveness of these policies depends on the extent to which people adhered to these behavioural guidelines. The aim of this project is to investigate which factors influenced people’s adherence to behavioural guidelines such as social distancing, hygienic behaviours and isolation/quarantine. We focus on both individual-level determinants (e.g., psychosocial factors such as risk perceptions and efficacy beliefs), as well as contextual factors (e.g., stringency of policies, hospitalizations and/or vaccination rates). To do so, we use data collected by the Corona Behavioural Unit Covid-19 of the National Institute for Public Health and The Environment (RIVM). Our research will contribute to a better understanding of (changing) human behaviour during pandemics, which is much needed in the light of pandemic preparedness.

Data monitoring

What methods for collecting behavioural data during a pandemic (social activity data, adherence to prevention measures) perform best (e.g., relevance, accuracy, timeliness, etc) and for what purpose (e.g., monitoring, modelling, rapid policy advice)?

In a first stage, data sources that have been used (inter)nationally during the Covid pandemic (2020-2022) to monitor social activity and adherence behaviours are reviewed. The inventory of data sources will be based on a literature review and a survey among experts (recruitment via snowballing) who have worked with social and behavioural data during the Covid pandemic. The review will focus on data sources from countries with good data infrastructures, notably the European Union, United States, Canada, Republic of Korea, Taiwan Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The review will be based on the following 6 dimensions of data quality: relevance, accuracy, credibility, timeliness, accessibility, and interpretability of the data.

Strengths and shortcomings of each data source are summarized, along with potential barriers for future use in the Netherlands, and possible ways to methodologically mitigate these. After this, a 2-round Delphi study (online voting then face-to-face meeting) with 10-15 experts (methodology, modelling, behavioural and social, public health) will be conducted to assess consensus on the rating of data sources and their application, and formulate recommendations for monitoring during future outbreaks. Future research should investigate how these data sources can be accessed and maintained in practice.

Community engagement in pandemic decision-making

Effective community engagement is critical to ensure support for and adherence to mitigation measures in times of crisis. Key persons in community organizations and networks play a critical role with respect to supporting, modeling and adjusting the implementation of mitigation measures and these community representatives would need to be involved in decision-making.  The aim of this project is to develop and pilot test a theory-based and evidence informed approach for community engagement in pandemic and crisis decision-making through key person involvement. The project consists of literature research to identify promising approaches to community engagement through key persons and factors related to their acceptability, feasibility and (potential) effects. Findings will guide the subsequent co-creation process to develop a novel approaches for community engagement through key person involvement that can be brought to scale. The usability of the proposed approach will be assessed in a pilot study.

Use of formal advice from the social and behavioural sciences regarding the COVID-19 pandemic by policy makers

In the first part of this project, we conduct an overview of social and behavioral pandemic policy advice in The Netherlands and several other Northwest European countries (yet to be determined). We examine how formal pandemic policy advice and more specifically advice from the social and behavioral sciences was organized in these countries. We examine the policy advice given using a self-developed policy brief checklist, which is based on systematic reviews about policy brief characteristics that contribute to the usability and uptake of policy recommendations. In the second part of this project, we interview policymakers to identify factors that play a role in the consideration and adoption of (social and behavioural) policy advice. One of the outcomes of the study will be a recommendation on how to provide policymakers with behavioural and social science advice more effectively.

Weighing epidemiological, behavioural and societal impacts to support decision making regarding pandemic policy

We will first review national and international key reports on COVID-19 to identify to what extent insights from epidemiological, behavioural and social sciences insights have been combined in advice for and evaluation of pandemic policy making. Next, we will review existing decision support frameworks and methods in various fields (e.g. welfare economics, decision science, health care, risk management), their characteristics, advantages and disadvantages and the types of problems to which they can be applied.

An interactive workshop with policy makers (e.g., members of OMT, MIT, policy makers from public health services, Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports) and researchers from various disciplines will be organized to gain information on their knowledge gaps and support interactive discussion to get a good view on what requirements need to be met to be able to weigh and include epidemiological, behavioural and societal impacts in advice. Citizens’ perspectives will be gathered using the existing LISS panel. Citizens get presented discrete choice experiments to gain insights into biomedical, behavioural and social trade-offs Dutch citizens’ are willing to make. The research will result in a concept for an integrated interdisciplinary framework for pandemic policy making, that can be tested in future research.

Dealing with scientific uncertainty in policymaking during pandemics

In particular in times of crisis there is a lot of uncertainty, also regarding scientific evidence, which may hinder policymaking. This study focuses on the way uncertainty in scientific evidence was communicated, received and used during the COVID-19 pandemic by scientists, policymakers and communication professionals. We use a mixed- methods approach consisting of expert interviews, a citizens survey and co-creation sessions. We aim to generate practical recommendations on how uncertain scientific evidence can best be used for policymaking and informing of the general public. These recommendations will become available via an online toolbox.

Behavioral Intervention and Disease Spread

This project revolves around the effect of behavioral interventions to the transmission of viruses. The aim of this project is to find practical solutions for mitigating the spread of viruses across various social settings and behaviors, going from dancing in discos to walking around in supermarkets. To answer our research question, we are creating a computational model that combines a viral transmission model to a behavioral model of how people move in space. Once up and running, we can use this model to simulate how different behavioral interventions (e.g., the 1.5 meter distance rule) influence the spread of a disease across different scenarios. Based on our research, we will provide recommendations for using behavioral interventions to effectively mitigate the risk of disease spread. Additionally, we will provide a package that contains our computational model, allowing others to simulate different scenarios in which disease might spread.

Social infrastructure and the community at work in pandemic times

In this work package we analyze the relevance of a social infrastructure of intermediary organizations and networks on community level, for vulnerable residents in times of crises. The aim of this work package is to find out what the main qualities and characteristics of local intermediary organizations (and formal and informal keypersons within) are that make them more protective. We are especially interested in what involved keypersons in organizations and networks in the local community do and need to help vulnerable people to prevent avoidable negative effects on health and well-being. Based on a literature review (on the role and functioning of the social infrastructure); a secondary analysis of already analyzed qualitative data (focus groups with key persons) and an in-depth study of the role of the local public library, we will develop two scientific articles and a practical tool for policy makers and professionals. Our overall goal is to make policy makers better understand and facilitate the social infrastructure in pandemic times to serve health equity.

Media & communication

During major long-term crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, media and interpersonal communication are crucial sources of information for the public, which can have effects on health behaviours, for example by influencing the trust in government. These effects can differ between different socio-demographic groups and different phases of the crisis. In this project, we will analyze the longitudinal effects of media use and interpersonal communication on health behaviours, particularly on the adherence to the preventive measures during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands.

Other projects

Resilient Individual, Communities and Organisations – Mental Well-being

The Use of Intermediaries During Public Health Crisis