Insights

DBASSE Event Focused on Social Science Responses to COVID’s Challenges

October 29, 2020 1533

The societal impacts of COVID-19 are enormous, but what can we do to lessen, reverse and even thrive in the face of that impact? An online seminar hosted on October 9 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) featured a series of presentations that considered this question in relation to different industries and challenges. Speakers across two sessions covered topics such as the public trust of a COVID-19 vaccine, coping with collective trauma of the pandemic, and addressing learning disparities amongst school systems as a result of COVID-19. Throughout, they demonstrated the importance of the social, behavioral and economic sciences in policy making and societal restructuring, reminding audiences that the social, behavioral and economic scientists – while they may have to deliver their message multiple times – must remember that their work matters.

The speakers in its first session were Abram Wagner, research assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Roxane Cohen Silver, professor of psychological science, medicine and public health at the University of California Irvine School of Social Ecology, and Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Courtney Sales Ross University Professor of Globalization and Education at New York University-Steinhardt.

Wagner’s talk on trust and vaccine hesitancy opened the first session. He pointed out that society is missing the human face on the virus. Studies suggest that if people witness the impact of the virus firsthand, then they are more likely to receive a vaccine for the virus.

Cohen Silver spoke about the challenge for researchers to get into policy and evidence translation spaces, the importance of social, behavioral and economic sciences with unusual findings, and replication studies. She emphasized the characteristics of COVID-19 that make it so different from previous traumatic experiences. As an invisible, ambiguous threat, the virus has impacted society in new ways. As such, policy-relevant research must be prospective, identifying at risk samples before the event, longitudinal, or immediate and repeated post-event, and regional and national. She argues that the social sciences and humanities have a critical role in rigorous research on the pandemic’s impact on society, particularly on the younger generations.

This in turn led to Yoshikawa’s discussion, which focused on the need to support schools, communities and school systems in the wake of COVID-19. He highlighted lower access to technology for learning by impoverished groups and suggested several opportunities for expansion of community school approaches, desegregation policies, and financing that addresses the inequity of school systems nationwide. Expanding AmeriCorps or providing expanded health, mental health, nutrition and family support, for instance, could help keep students in school as well as combat the distribution gap between students.

The speakers (from top left) Jeffrey C. Johnson, Roxane Cohen Silver, Valerie Reyna, Aram Wagner, Enrica Ruggs, Judith Chevalier and Hirokazu Yoshikawa.

The second session featured Jeffrey C. Johnson, professor of anthropology at the University of Florida, who spoke on the pandemic’s impact on food supply chains, particularly independent restaurants. His research revealed that restaurant-supply networks play a more pivotal role in the resilience and sustainability of the U.S. food supply than realized. As independent restaurants have had trouble adjusting to take out services or providing business to small scale farm producers, Johnson’s findings remind us that new strategies must be built for more resiliency in supply networks.

Enrica Ruggs, assistant professor of management at the University of Memphis Fogelman College, spoke on the differential impact by COVID-19 on workplaces and the adjustments needed to ensure employee well-being and support. She addressed the crucial question of how organization responses can mitigate or magnify effects on employees, such as in health, particularly among Black and Hispanic people in the US. Her research showed racial disparities in unemployment rates rising between February to April 2020, with Hispanic and Black workers hit hardest, with those higher-than-usual unemployment rates remaining for non-white groups through today. Ruggs suggested federal protections for basic living, long-term planning and increased support based on income and unemployment, and action around systemic racism, particularly in occupations like healthcare and criminal justice.  

Lastly, Judy Chevalier, William S. Beinecke Professor of Finance and Economics at the Yale School of Management, discussed a very specific, but also important, subset of workers: care workers in nursing homes. Her work on the dangers created by an the widespread movement across nursing homes of care workers. Using cell-phone location data, Chevalier’s study indicated that cross-movement across nursing homes is not only frequent and common, but necessary since the positions tend to pay poorly and so workers take on extra shifts at other locales. This in turn creates infection vectors that puts both the workers and residents at greater risk of COVID-19.  

Throughout each industry discussed, the sessions revealed a need for better systems to protect all of us physically, mentally and emotionally. Their underlying messages reinforced the idea that investing in one evidence-based solution in one area will almost inevitably reap the benefit in multiple areas. The sessions also emphasized the need to tap into existing research while linking all discipline for new research to address 2020’s many challenges. Because we are all interconnected, researchers, academics and policy makers must try to change policy by bridging together research from different disciplines. These are not moral dilemmas, and human decisions are the economic decisions.

DBASSE hosted the seminar in collaboration with the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, the Consortium of Social Science Associations, the Federation of Brain and Behavioral Sciences, and SAGE Publishing (the parent of Social Science Space).

Kenalyn Ang is the social science communications intern with SAGE Publishing. She is also a communications student at the USC Annenberg School. Her research focuses on consumer behavior, identity-making and representation through the written word, and creative sensory marketing and branding strategies.

View all posts by Kenalyn Ang

Related Articles

How ‘Dad Jokes’ Help Children Learn How To Handle Embarrassment
Insights
June 14, 2024

How ‘Dad Jokes’ Help Children Learn How To Handle Embarrassment

Read Now
Webinar – What Spurs Action on Climate Change?
Event
June 5, 2024

Webinar – What Spurs Action on Climate Change?

Read Now
How Social Science Can Hurt Those It Loves
Ethics
June 4, 2024

How Social Science Can Hurt Those It Loves

Read Now
Spring 2024 Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Advisory Committee Meeting
Event
May 23, 2024

Spring 2024 Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Advisory Committee Meeting

Read Now
Digital Scholarly Records are Facing New Risks

Digital Scholarly Records are Facing New Risks

Drawing on a study of Crossref DOI data, Martin Eve finds evidence to suggest that the current standard of digital preservation could fall worryingly short of ensuring persistent accurate record of scholarly works.

Read Now
Analyzing the Impact: Social Media and Mental Health 

Analyzing the Impact: Social Media and Mental Health 

The social and behavioral sciences supply evidence-based research that enables us to make sense of the shifting online landscape pertaining to mental health. We’ll explore three freely accessible articles (listed below) that give us a fuller picture on how TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and online forums affect mental health. 

Read Now
New Fellowship for Community-Led Development Research of Latin America and the Caribbean Now Open

New Fellowship for Community-Led Development Research of Latin America and the Caribbean Now Open

Thanks to a collaboration between the Inter-American Foundation (IAF) and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), applications are now being accepted for […]

Read Now
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments