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£1.5 million for research to help the public respond to mass emergencies
By: Anna Ford
Last updated: Wednesday, 1 July 2020
Professor John Drury and colleagues from other universities have successfully secured funding for two major research projects worth over £1.5 million from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), to help societies better respond to mass emergencies including Covid-19.
One of the studies has been funded through the UKRI’s ‘Ideas to Address Covid-19’ grant call. This project will explore ways of supporting and sustaining cooperation with public health measures during the pandemic. Using a combination of research methods, the research will build upon existing knowledge of psychological group processes to address how to support and sustain social solidarity during the crisis.
Professor Drury, from the School of Psychology, said: “It is widely known that an effective response to Covid-19 depends on the public acting collectively and for the common good. These research projects will produce new knowledge on the conditions that enable such collective action.”
The research comprises three separate strands, focused on public health messaging, mutual aid, and social relations in the civil contingencies response. Public participation in the form of community mutual aid groups has been a vital feature of the response, and looks to be of continued importance to make ‘test, trace and isolate’ viable. The research will help us understand the factors that sustain such mutual aid groups and prevent them from being burned out.
The work will feed into recommendations which will be used by the relevant authorities in the UK as well as governments across the globe. The research will be vital in assessing how societies can be better prepared to cope with future mass outbreaks of diseases.
The second project, funded through the ESRC’s Open Call, will investigate the psychological dynamics of crowd ‘stampedes’ in response to a perceived hostile threats, such as a terrorist incidents. This project aims to understand how people respond collectively to a perceived state of emergency, even when it turns out to be a false alarm.
The projects are collaborations with the Universities of Keele, St Andrews, Oxford, Edinburgh, Canterbury Christ Church, and Lund. The projects also enjoy key partnerships with the Cabinet Office, Public Health England, West Yorkshire Police, Staffordshire Civil Contingency Unit, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, and the College of Policing among others.