This page from the Accelerator’s Public values, transparency and governance workstream tracks studies and projects involving public engagement and covid-19.
For studies relating to data and data infrastructures for social care during the pandemic, see the Accelerator’s social care data evidence tracker here.
This tracker and its format were inspired by the Ada Lovelace Institute’s Public attitudes to COVID-19, technology and inequality tracker.
Please get in touch if there are any projects you believe should be included in this pandemic public engagement tracker. This can be done by contacting Jamie Webb at email@example.com.
A public dialogue, commissioned by the Accelerator, to explore the ethical and societal issues in relation to covid-19. Participants focussed on the need to address inequalities exposed by covid-19, build trust and transparency into government policies and actions, and integrate public involvement into policy making. The results of this dialogue will inform some of the future work of the Accelerator.
This joint project between Involve and Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster explores what role the public can play in covid-19 decision making, and how the covid-19 response and recovery can be democratic. It has produced a handbook guide, ‘Building Back With: A handbook for local government’ and an extensive series of blog posts on participation, democracy and covid-19.
A 62 member group drawn from a range of backgrounds and experiences was established to shape HDRUK’s approach to data access, research question prioritisation process, and communications strategies.
Emerging Minds, alongside partner organisations, have been working to enable young people aged 11-16 to develop and share their own resources for dealing with the disruption and challenges the pandemic has brought.
The Sudan COVID-19 Research Group at LSHTM have written a series of policy briefs and initiated a series of community engagement activities through the Sudan Y-Peer Network. This work includes qualitative analysis of public willingness for shielding campaigns.
Government conducted survey work analysing the impact of covid-19 on the lives of UK systems, considering public attitudes towards lockdown restrictions, the vaccination program, and emotional wellbeing.
Three citizens juries were convened to deliberate on the three new data sharing regimes introduced by health and social care services in England during covid-19 to assist with the pandemic response. Overall, the juries supported the decisions to introduce the policies, and would be in favour of them continuing as long as they were valuable (potentially beyond the end of the pandemic and for non-covid related health needs). Participants had concerns around transparency, which they viewed as important even during a pandemic, and would like decisions about the future of the initiatives taken by an independent body of experts and lay people rather than ministers.
VacciNation: Exploring vaccine confidence with people from African, Bangladeshi, Caribbean and Pakistani backgrounds living in England
This report explores the opinions of Black and Asian individuals in the UK towards the covid-19 vaccine and its rollout (a majority of participants had expressed some vaccine hesitancy). Though views on vaccination are deeply personal, Traverse found that hesitancy was best addressed through a localised approach, led by trained community members – for example, known local frontline health workers – rather than through government-led advertising or Black and Asian celebrity-led campaigns, which participants felt had singled out, patronised, and homogenised minority communities.
Public participation in crisis policymaking. How 30,000 Dutch citizens advised their government on relaxing COVID-19 lockdown measures
Using the novel deliberative method of Participatory Value Evaluation (PVE), 30000 Dutch citizens wre asked to recommend which 8 lockdown measures they would prefer to be removed, following information regarding the societal impacts of each. ‘Citizens advised to relax lockdown measures, but not to the point at which the healthcare system becomes heavily overloaded. We found wide support for prioritising the re-opening of contact professions. Conversely, participants disfavoured options to relax restrictions for specific groups of citizens as they found it important that decisions lead to “unity” and not to “division”.’ Participants also supported the use of PVE to involve the public in decision making during the pandemic.
Bristol City council leading a deliberative initiative emphasising engaging marginalised communities who may have been particularly vulnerable to the consequences of the pandemic. ‘The citizens’ assembly will discuss the following question: “How do we recover from covid-19 and create a better future for all in Bristol?”’
Camden Council wanted to engage the public in shaping three principles for local health partnerships to consider when implementing future changes. Involved sessions on covid 19. It was assessed in terms of its impact in securing various democratic goods: inclusivity, the production of considered judgement, and popular control. One interesting innovation was the role of Citizen Scientists: ‘his tool involved participants investigating two tasks. First, participants considered how covid-19 had affected them as individuals. Second, the members spoke to people in the local community to find out how covid-19 had affected them and others. The purpose of this tool was to gather information on the public’s positive and negative experiences of the pandemic and lockdown. This information was anonymised and used to inform the Assembly’s expectations for improving health and care. An advantage of the Citizen Scientist process was that it encouraged deliberation from participants outside of their own experiences and to learn from people in the community.’
This survey found that almost half of all the migrants questioned said they would be scared to access healthcare if they fell ill during this pandemic, with 60% of migrants from Africa and the Caribbean reporting a fear of seeking treatment. Despite the fact that the majority of migrants are entitled to free NHS care, 30% of those surveyed who do have a visa and are in the UK lawfully expressed a fear of requesting care. The JCWE attributes this reluctance to the culture created by the Government’s hostile immigration policy, where undocumented migrants fear having their data passed from the NHS to the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement, and overseas visitors are charged for treatment.
This 1003 person survey revealed broad public support for vaccine passports amongst the UK population. This support was consistent across different demographics and political views. Support was lowest regarding access to places of worship, and highest for international travel.
Connecting to Congress attempts to mitigate the limitations of traditional town hall events through deliberative approaches, which aim to support communication between members of the public and elected officials through a productive, non-partisan mechanism. Special events were held focussing on the covid-19 crisis. For example, on April 20th 2020, Rep. Kendra Horn and Mayor David Holt of Oklahoma City participated in a bipartisan online town hall focussing on the public health dimensions of the crisis, to which the director of the local health department was also invited. Both public participants and elected officials engage in evaluative exercises after the town hall events.
Factors Driving Citizen Engagement With Government TikTok Accounts During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Model Development and Analysis
Analysis of videos posted to TikTok suggested that video length, titles, and content type all influenced the level of citizen engagement. For example, video length was negatively associated with the number of likes and comments.
A study conducted into public attitudes towards various inequalities in the UK in which over 2000 adults participated. The report revealed a major unifying concern surrounding regional inequalities. Attitudes towards racial inequalities were more mixed, and growing gender inequality was a lower concern. Visions of a meritocratic UK society were still prominent, a limiting factor on demands for action addressing inequality. As an example, ‘despite the exceptional circumstances, Britons are more likely to think that job losses caused by the crisis are the result of personal failure than chance’.
Online deliberative workshops were used to gather informed and considered preferences for covid triage. Participants rejected ‘fair innings’ and ‘life projects’ justifications for age-based allocation. No single principle was recommended: instead a concern for three core principles and values emerged: ‘equality, efficiency and vulnerability’.
A cross-national study, which assessed for participant comprehension, found that respondents were broadly in favour of conducting challenge trials (75%) and integrated trials (63%) over standard trials. ‘Even as respondents acknowledged the risks, they perceived both accelerated trials as similarly ethical to standard trial designs. This high support is consistent across every geography and demographic subgroup we examined, including vulnerable populations.’
Two survey experiments involving 887 U.S. residents reveal their attitudes towards development aid. ‘People’s concern about the impact of covid-19 on their country’s financial situation reduces their support for aid. If they think that aid can help curb the next wave of the disease at home by first alleviating its impact in developing countries, people become substantially more supportive of giving aid. In contrast, merely stressing how COVID-19 might ravage developing countries barely changes their aid attitudes.’
Addressing immediate public coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns through social media: Utilizing Reddit’s AMA as a framework for Public Engagement with Science
Two Emergency Department physicians from Massachusetts General Hospital led an ask me anything (AMA) session on covid. Results suggested that participants were not solely interested in receiving information, but also wanted to engage in a discussion. The majority of bi-directional discussion occurred between participants in the absence of responses from the expert physicians. Due to the large number of questions and the number of experts compared to participants, not all questions were answered.
Challenges and needs for social behavioural research and community engagement activities during the COVID-19 pandemic in rural Mozambique
A discussion of the shifts in strategies and methods of public engagement that are demanded by a pandemic and their implications: e.g. the shift to web based engagement in a poor-resourced country like Mozambique would entail a selection bias towards a minority based in large urban centres. In contrast, a large segment of the population uses mobile-based platforms, a fact that the researchers utilised to conduct phone based oral interviews where fieldwork based on in-person contact had been suspended.
The goal of the public advisory group was ensuring that members of the public had the chance to feed into the government’s ongoing work to respond to the pandemic and break the chains of transmission. 100 demographically representative participants were randomly selected from 20,000 people across England. The group considered issues such as how the government might use data to reduce public health risks and what this means for individual privacy, and how support measures can be provided in an equitable way. Following the conclusion of the workshops, a message on the gov.uk page states ‘We’re collating the resulting content into a report that will be published on GOV.UK later this year.’ No such report has yet been linked to.
A survey (conducted before the vaccine candidates had completed clinical trials) revealed preference expressed for prioritisation towards front-line medical care workers, then children and the elderly who are at high risk of dying of Covid. The authors argue that ‘future work on setting priorities for vaccine allocation should use deliberative modes of public engagement to assess public priorities under scarcity and evaluate effective communication’.
Public Perceptions of COVID-19 in Australia: Perceived Risk, Knowledge, Health-Protective Behaviors, and Vaccine Intentions
This survey of 2174 Australian residents not only revealed attitudes and understandings of the pandemic, but demographic indicators: ‘The findings also highlight psychological and demographic factors associated with lower engagement with health, protective behaviors, including male gender, younger age, and low levels of worry about the outbreak’
This online mini public involving 28 participants considered how covid-19 exit strategies are shaping or changing the way the public thinks and feels about areas such as privacy, trust, solidarity and human rights. Four main recommendations were made regarding how to build covid-19 technologies with legitimacy: provide the public with a transparent evidence base, offer independent assessment and review of the technology, clarify boundaries on data use, rights and responsibilities, and proactively address the needs of, and risks relating to, vulnerable groups.
Public perceptions and experiences of social distancing and social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic: a UK based focus group study
This qualitative study explored UK public perceptions and experiences of social distancing and isolation caused by the pandemic. Four major themes emerged: (1) various forms of loss associated with social distancing, (2) criticisms of government communication, (3) adherence (participants reporting high levels of self-adherence but reported failures amongst others), and (4) uncertainties around the future.
Led by Scottish government, allowed registers users to submit ideas, rate the idea of others users, and provide (moderated) comments. ‘The Scottish Government Digital Communications Team ‘pre-seeded’ eight ideas in order to encourage people to engage with the themes in the Framework and the ‘Test, Trace, Isolate, Support Strategy.' The government also posted two broad questions to prompt users to identify their key concerns: “What one change to the current restrictions would have the most positive impact on your life?” and “What could help enable people to comply with the lockdown restrictions?”
Covid-19 News and Information from State-Backed Outlets Targeting French, German and Spanish-Speaking Social Media Users: Understanding Chinese, Iranian, Russian and Turkish Outlets
State backed outlets from China, Iran, Russia and Turkey reached tens of millions of social media users from around the world. State backed outlets releasing Covid themed content in French, German and Spanish can achieve greater engagement per article than sources like Le Monde, Der Spiegal, and El Pais. Coverage varied depending on the language and source company: e.g. Russian outlets working in French and German emphasised civil disorder in ‘weak’ democratic governments in Europe, whilst Chinese reporting in Turkish praised the Chinese government response.
Emphasises the need for equitable strategies to engage at-risk and vulnerable populations and communities. To do, conference calls involving faith based organisations with relationships with the hospital, but also other community leaders, were ran. These calls were led at an appropriate level of health literacy and in a sensitive manner. Topics discussed on the calls included quarantining, health disparities, mental health, social isolation and ethical concerns relating to the use of hospital resources, with community leaders identifying barriers to adherence to public health protocols.
Formed by UK government. 110 citizens representative of population, including presentation by an ‘expert lead’ followed by facilitated small group discussion. ‘On June 23rd, 2020, the Climate Assembly UK released an interim report containing the results of the two votes (see below) and verbatim quotes from assembly members about the rationale behind their recommendations’:
- 79% of assembly members ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that, “Steps taken by the government to help the economy recover should be designed to help achieve net zero”.
- 93% of assembly members ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that, “As lockdown eases, government, employers and/or others should take steps to encourage lifestyles to change to be more compatible with reaching net zero.”
Details the efforts by the Italian Ministry of Health to use its official Facebook page to mitigate the spread of misinformation and provide Covid updates to online publics, in the context of declining trust in public institutions in Italy. For example: ‘With the emergency, the number of likes rose from 61,196 on 30 January to 409,145 on April 3, showing the need felt by users to find a reliable institutional source about the virus, but also the strategic function played by this page in mitigating the infodemic… One negative aspect was the shortage of replies to users’ comments on the page (less than 5%), leaving people’s queries largely unanswered and thus possibly undermining trust in this institution.’
The paper explores how Chinese social media could be used not just for state censorship and surveillance, but as places of active public engagement, ‘in which Chinese citizens expressed care and solidarity, engaged in claim-making and resistance, and negotiated with authorities’.
Measuring the Outreach Efforts of Public Health Authorities and the Public Response on Facebook During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Early 2020: Cross-Country Comparison
A survey of three different public health messages and their reception from 3 different public health authorities (PHA) on Facebook: the Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, and Public Health England (PHE). The MOH published more covid-19 posts compared to the CDC and PHE, whilst the average number of comments per covid -19 post was greatest for the CDC. Six major themes for posts were identified, with the most common across the different PHAs being posts about safety measures and situation updates. MOH posts covered a broader variety of themes than the CDC or PHE. The themes of the MOH’s posts were diverse, while the CDC and PHE posts focused on a few themes. Response sentiments were more positive for MOH posts than CDC or PHE, but toxic comments were rare across all PHAs.
This piece draws lessons from previous infectious disease outbreaks to discuss how to mobilise a public health response in the context of war. It emphasises the importance of social media tools like WhatsApp in public health messaging, and the mobilisation of a broad base of volunteers to support local governance organisations, for example Idleb Health Directorate and the White Helmets.
Online Community Involvement in COVID-19 Research & Outbreak Response Early Insights from a UK Perspective
The PERC sought insight from members of the public to inform their research on exploring and understanding people’s responses to the covid-19 pandemic. Vaccine development was identified as the most urgent research priority for many respondents. The main challenges participants identified were ineffective communication, including access to information and information overload; and conflicting guidance and misinformation.