Round table: the role of behavioural sciences during the COVID-19 crisis

Published on June 22, 2023 – The Be-Prepared consortium (Behavioural Science for Pandemic Preparedeness) organised a round table during the ARPH conference, which took place on March 30-31, in Enschede. The round table was titled „International perspectives on COVID-19 research and the role of behavioural science during a global crisis”, and had three invited speakers: prof. Marijn de Bruin (Radboudumc/ RIVM), prof. Olivier Luminet (KU Leuven, Belgium) and prof. Lucie Brynes-Davis (University of Manchester, UK). The discussed topics included the role and mobilisation of behavioural sciences during the COVID-19 pandemic in the three countries, lessons learned and how bevavioural sciences can be prepared in case of new (health) crises. Below is a summary of the main takeaway points from the round table. 

  • Behavioral science played a crucial role in shaping public health policies and communication strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting its significance in pandemic preparedness.
  • Governments need to recognize the importance of funding and supporting behavioral science research from the early stages of a crisis, to effectively harness its insights.
  • Evaluating the impact of behavioral science during a crisis is challenging, but it has proven valuable in improving communication campaigns and translating scientific insights into practical advice for policy and communication.
  • Balancing nuance and practicality is essential for researchers providing advice during a crisis, as simplicity and clarity can enhance the impact of behavioral science recommendations.
  • Communicating uncertainty is a challenge, but building trust in science remains crucial for effective communication and public adherence to behavioral guidelines.
  • To ensure future pandemic preparedness, it is essential to learn from the COVID-19 experience by investing in networks of behavioral scientists, conducting rigorous research, integrating behavioral science into existing advisory and decision-making structures, and securing long-term funding for behavioral science research.

‘Be-Prepared’ is a collaboration between the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and four Dutch universities (University of Amsterdam, Radboud university medical center, Utrecht University and University of Twente). Within this broader project, researchers from ACHC and ASCoR (Julia van Weert, Bas van den Putte, Eline Smit, Saar Mollen, Mark Boukes, Toni van der Meer, Nida Gizem Yilmaz and Adriana Solovei) focus on analyzing the media use, media content, and media effects on adherence to preventive measures during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands.