Our mission

Since COVID-19 emerged in December 2019, it has had a nearly unprecedented global social, behavioural and economic impact. The effects of COVID-19 go far beyond physical health, impacting on “everyday life” and well-being, mental health, education, employment, and political stability. Consequently, to fully understand the impact of the pandemic on health outcomes and everyday life, it is important to consider and analyse these different vulnerabilities. As the pandemic has unfolded world-wide, there have been significant differences across European MS in relation to the social and economic impact and the response measures that have been implemented, especially with regard to vulnerable groups. To understand the impact of different measures, there is a need for more comprehensive and coordinated comparative research addressing sub- and supra-national as well as national responses and their impact and unintended consequences. Measures implemented nationally do not impact the entire population equally, with evidence highlighting the disproportionate impacts that the pandemic has had on different segments of society, affecting vulnerable and marginalised groups to a greater extent.

Communication plays a core role in governments’ responses to COVID-19. In the absence of a vaccination or universally accepted treatments, policies are directed towards the national or regional “communication of public health guidance and instructions” (Fakhruddin, Blanchard, & Ragupathy 2020). During a pandemic, it is essential that communication is honest and transparent as confusing or contradictory health messages can increase mistrust and result in people seeking information from unreliable sources (Berger et al. 2020). As vulnerable groups, such as people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME), people with disabilities, and undocumented immigrants may already be distrustful of public health institutions (ibid), effective communication is critical to ensure adherence with recommended behaviours. The need for effective communication in response to COVID-19 is heightened by the vast amount of false information and conspiracy theories online. These can result in people being less likely to follow the advice of health officials and instead seek other less effective or fatal treatments (Van Bavel et al. 2020; Boberg et al. 2020).

Objectives

COVINFORM’s multidisciplinary and intersectional approach will examine how vulnerability is defined and addressed (if at all) in COVID-19 responses from government, public health and communication perspectives. The project will also examine the impact that different national, regional, and local responses have had on vulnerable and marginalised groups, and view these impacts through an intersectionality perspective to understand how different factors interconnect, potentially further increasing vulnerability and marginalisation. COVINFORM will develop solutions, guidelines and recommendations to ensure that the needs of vulnerable and marginalised groups are appropriately considered in potential further waves of COVID-19 and future pandemics.

COVINFORM assess COVID-19 responses and impacts in a multilevel governance framework, focusing on government, public health, and citizen responses and the role of information and communication at all stages of the pandemic. In doing so, it will identify and analyse strategies for inclusive and effective COVID-19 communication, including strategies to influence behaviour change, and a detailed analysis of factors influencing communication practices. The project will identify and assess measures and tools for the prevention of misinformation, disinformation, malinformation, ‘fake news’ and conspiracy theories and analyse and understand the impact of misinformation and digital communication on the mental health and well-being of different groups. The consortium will also research representation and justice in the media in connection with threat perceptions, prejudice, and discrimination. COVINFORM will develop guidance and recommendations for designing effective communication and combating misinformation.

Methodology

The COVINFORM project will: 1) assess COVID-19 responses in a multilevel governance framework, with a focus on impacts on vulnerable groups (including undesired impacts and trade-offs) and intensive consideration of the role of information and communications; and 2) to develop an online portal and toolkit for stakeholders in the governmental, public health, and civil society/community domains integrating data streams, indices and indicators, models, primary research and case study findings, empirically grounded policy guidance, and creative assessment tools.

To achieve these goals, the following approaches will be applied:

HARD AND SOFT SYSTEMS SCIENCE: COVINFORM will apply both “hard” systems science (i.e. quantification and predictive model-building), and “soft” systems science (i.e. the cultivation of “interaction, communication, and policy-making among the complex web of actors involved, including governments, international negotiators, businesses, conservationists, and civil society”) (Kirman et al. 2020). COVINFORM will proactively bridge quantitative and qualitative systems science through mixed-methods research on “interaction, communication, and policy-making,” as well as those dimensions of vulnerability that are difficult to quantify, following a case study approach.

MIXED-METHODS CASE STUDIES AND TRIANGULATION OF INTERSECTING VULNERABILITIES: COVINFORM will utilise quantitative, qualitative, and hybrid methods as demanded by the rapidly evolving situation – in keeping with established good practices in public health research (Padgett 2012). A three-level approach to data collection will be taken: 1) EU27 level + UK; 2) National and community level; 3) Case study level.

INNOVATIVE AND CREATIVE THEORIES AND METHODS: On the level of theory, the consortium’s overall approach innovatively synthesises cutting edge perspectives in quantitative social science (complex systems analysis) and humanistic and qualitative social science (intersectionality theory). On the level of research practice, the consortium’s case studies with impacted communities will utilise innovative and creative methods, including visual ethnography (e.g. video journals and/or drawing exercises) and participatory ethnography (e.g. training research participants in basic ethnographic methods and working collaboratively with them in face-to-face or online communities). The project will furthermore develop an innovative online qualitative research tool enabling the collection and semi-automated analysis of large samples of short-format qualitative data (e.g. self-videos).

RISK ASSESSMENT MODEL AND REPOSITORY DEVELOPMENT: COVINFORM will build risk assessment models, with both qualitative and quantitative data, that describes and evaluates the response and impact of COVID-19, particularly in relation to vulnerable groups, at different administrative levels across the EU27 MS and the UK (national, regional, and local).

Objectives

COVINFORM’s multidisciplinary and intersectional approach will examine how vulnerability is defined and addressed (if at all) in COVID-19 responses from government, public health and communication perspectives. The project will also examine the impact that different national, regional, and local responses have had on vulnerable and marginalised groups, and view these impacts through an intersectionality perspective to understand how different factors interconnect, potentially further increasing vulnerability and marginalisation. COVINFORM will develop solutions, guidelines and recommendations to ensure that the needs of vulnerable and marginalised groups are appropriately considered in potential further waves of COVID-19 and future pandemics.

COVINFORM assess COVID-19 responses and impacts in a multilevel governance framework, focusing on government, public health, and citizen responses and the role of information and communication at all stages of the pandemic. In doing so, it will identify and analyse strategies for inclusive and effective COVID-19 communication, including strategies to influence behaviour change, and a detailed analysis of factors influencing communication practices. The project will identify and assess measures and tools for the prevention of misinformation, disinformation, malinformation, ‘fake news’ and conspiracy theories and analyse and understand the impact of misinformation and digital communication on the mental health and well-being of different groups. The consortium will also research representation and justice in the media in connection with threat perceptions, prejudice, and discrimination. COVINFORM will develop guidance and recommendations for designing effective communication and combating misinformation.

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Methodology

The COVINFORM project will: 1) assess COVID-19 responses in a multilevel governance framework, with a focus on impacts on vulnerable groups (including undesired impacts and trade-offs) and intensive consideration of the role of information and communications; and 2) to develop an online portal and toolkit for stakeholders in the governmental, public health, and civil society/community domains integrating data streams, indices and indicators, models, primary research and case study findings, empirically grounded policy guidance, and creative assessment tools.

To achieve these goals, the following approaches will be applied:

HARD AND SOFT SYSTEMS SCIENCE: COVINFORM will apply both “hard” systems science (i.e. quantification and predictive model-building), and “soft” systems science (i.e. the cultivation of “interaction, communication, and policy-making among the complex web of actors involved, including governments, international negotiators, businesses, conservationists, and civil society”) (Kirman et al. 2020). COVINFORM will proactively bridge quantitative and qualitative systems science through mixed-methods research on “interaction, communication, and policy-making,” as well as those dimensions of vulnerability that are difficult to quantify, following a case study approach.

MIXED-METHODS CASE STUDIES AND TRIANGULATION OF INTERSECTING VULNERABILITIES: COVINFORM will utilise quantitative, qualitative, and hybrid methods as demanded by the rapidly evolving situation – in keeping with established good practices in public health research (Padgett 2012). A three-level approach to data collection will be taken: 1) EU27 level + UK; 2) National and community level; 3) Case study level.

INNOVATIVE AND CREATIVE THEORIES AND METHODS: On the level of theory, the consortium’s overall approach innovatively synthesises cutting edge perspectives in quantitative social science (complex systems analysis) and humanistic and qualitative social science (intersectionality theory). On the level of research practice, the consortium’s case studies with impacted communities will utilise innovative and creative methods, including visual ethnography (e.g. video journals and/or drawing exercises) and participatory ethnography (e.g. training research participants in basic ethnographic methods and working collaboratively with them in face-to-face or online communities). The project will furthermore develop an innovative online qualitative research tool enabling the collection and semi-automated analysis of large samples of short-format qualitative data (e.g. self-videos).

RISK ASSESSMENT MODEL AND REPOSITORY DEVELOPMENT: COVINFORM will build risk assessment models, with both qualitative and quantitative data, that describes and evaluates the response and impact of COVID-19, particularly in relation to vulnerable groups, at different administrative levels across the EU27 MS and the UK (national, regional, and local).

Impact

COVINFORM will assess COVID-19 responses in a multilevel governance framework, with a focus on impacts on vulnerable groups and the role of information and communications at all stages of pandemic preparation, response, and recovery.

As such, the project will

  • improve the resilience, wellbeing and mental health of the population, frontline workers and vulnerable groups and mitigate health inequalities during and after pandemics;
  • contribute to a better understanding of the impact, effectiveness, the public health preparedness and responses (control) that have been taken at different governance levels in the context of the ongoing pandemic;
  • prepare holistic assessments of the social, economic and political impacts of the outbreak and its responses, and to propose and deploy evidence-based policy measures and other initiatives to improve industry’s and society’s adaptation capacity and resilience;
  • contribute to a holistic public health preparedness and response in the context of ongoing and future epidemics;
  • provide health authorities with guidance for further public health interventions, and support implementation of actions to mitigate or manage consequences of current policies, and to better tailor future pandemic management

The project will further result in the following impacts:

  • Inclusive guidance, recommendations and policy: The COVINFORM project will not only examine the impact of COVID-19 responses on vulnerable and marginalised groups, but will also provide guidance and recommendations for more inclusive policies that consider the particular needs of different groups.
  • Emancipating members of so-called vulnerable groups: In giving a voice to members of vulnerable groups and giving them the opportunity to define their own vulnerability, as well as appropriate measures to address it, COVINFORM will contribute to emancipation and visibility of these groups.
  • Building a COVID-19 Knowledge Repository: The COVINFORM project will contribute to the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM)’s recent creation of a Union Civil Protection Knowledge Network to bring together civil protection and disaster management experts and organisations, and support the Union’s ability and capacity to deal with disasters. COVINFORM will integrate expertise and resources on COVID-19 through the COVINFORM COVID-19 Knowledge Repository.

Project Facts

Duration

11/2020 to 10/2023

Programme

Horizon 2020

H2020-SC1-PHE-CORONAVIRUS-2020-2

Research & Innovation Action

Reference

101016247

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Project Structure

To reach all described aims and objectives of the COVINFORM project, with a total duration of 36 months, an integrated project plan and overall work plan strategy consisting of structured work packages and strategically positioned milestones has been defined.

WP1 Project management and coordination
WP2 Risk assessment model to evaluate the response and impact at different geographical levels
WP3 Case study design and evaluation
WP4 Government responses and impact assessment
WP5 Public Health responses and impact assessment
WP6 Citizen and community responses and impact assessment
WP7 Inclusive COVID-19 communication for behaviour change and addressing misinformation
WP8 Development of solutions, guidelines and recommendations
WP9 Dissemination, exploitation and communication