Social Sciences awards over £210,000 to projects addressing social, economic, cultural, & environmental impacts of COVID-19

The Division’s Urgent Response Fund has awarded over £210,000 to 18 projects across the University to support immediate impact and engagement work relating to the economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions of the global COVID-19 crisis.

From Anthropology to Zoology and Psychiatry to English and Law, the fund has enabled diverse departments to respond rapidly to the complex societal challenges presented by the pandemic. Through collaboration and engagement with the public, policymakers, and organisations spanning the local arts to global health, researchers will develop evidence-based tools, partnerships, and evidence syntheses to strengthen research-based responses to the repercussions of COVID-19.

The full list of awards can be found below. Examples of the breadth of projects include:

The impacts of COVID-19 on workers in the gig economy (Professor Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute)

Professor Mark Grahan

'The COVID-19 pandemic presents a double-edged sword for gig economy workers,' explains Professor Mark Graham. 'They’re confronted with increased health risks, given that their work leaves them exposed to the Covid-19 virus, and with financial precarity, which keeps them working even when sick. 

'The platform companies that they work for have traditionally taken very little responsibility for these workers' health and welfare. However, Covid-19 has quickly changed that, and in response to public pressure, companies around the world are now rushing to be seen to provide gig workers with protections.

'This award will enable us to work with an international network of partners to survey and document these policies in order to highlight best practice, and to avoid platform companies reverting to a state in which they again wash their hands of responsibility for some of society’s most precarious workers.'


Synthesising evidence on the links between wildlife conservation and COVID-19 for engagement with a neglected audience: teenagers and young adults (Professor EJ Milner-Gulland, Department of Zoology)

Professor EJ Milner Gulland

'The discourses around the relationship between COVID-19 and the destruction of the natural world, which are pervasive on social media, are often poorly informed by evidence and present a bleak picture of the future', Professor EJ Milner-Gulland explains.

'Many young people are already under immense psychological strain as a result of the climate and ecological crisis, and COVID-19 just adds another layer of pressure, made worse if adult family members are not able to provide them with the confidence and support that they need.

'This funding will enable us to bring together multidisciplinary research teams working on the illegal wildlife trade and the relationship between nature and pandemics, with a global network of youth organisations, through our Conservation Optimism initiative. We will work together to generate evidence-based and hopeful stories and online engagement to give young people the information that they need, through the channels that they use. Hopefully this will help them to feel more empowered to act for a more sustainable future.'


The worldwide impact of social and moral psychology on public health during COVID-19 (Dr Patricia Lockwood, Department of Experimental Psychology)

Patricia Lockwood

What psychological factors predict a person’s willingness to wash their hands, to distance themselves from loved ones, or to support others? And what are the key risk factors that might lead to a relapse during the pandemic, and potentially a second wave of infections?

'Survey data on social and moral psychology that is generalisable to the populations most at risk is crucial to answering these questions, and to informing policymakers globally as countries start to ease lockdowns', explains Dr Patricia Lockwood, MRC Research Fellow in the Department of Experimental Psychology.

'The majority of psychological data internationally is heavily skewed towards young, wealthy undergraduates in North America and Western Europe. This funding will enable us to undertake vital data collection in under-represented countries, and analysis that will support policymakers in understanding the psychological factors that will ultimately help ‘flatten the curve’.'


Contagion Cabaret for Covid (Professor Sally Shuttleworth, Faculty of English)

Professor Sally Shuttleworth

Humanities and medical researchers are collaborating with Chipping Norton Theatre and the Oxford Spires Academy to produce a theatrical film of drama, discussion, and disease for the COVID-19 era. Based on the successful Contagion Cabaret, which originally toured to venues including the British Academy and the Science Museum in 2017/18, this imaginative, fast-paced performance will engage teenagers and adults with historical perspectives on responses to pandemics and the contemporary dimensions of the challenges raised.

'Interweaving songs, scenes from plays, and short extracts from newspapers, the production will explore the social history of contagion while responding sensitively to the current crisis', explains Sally Shuttleworth, Professor of English Literature. 'We will again draw on medical researchers, who are now working in the front line of COVID-19 defence, to give short talks on the medical and social issues we are confronting, while humanities researchers will offer historical perspectives on responses to pandemics.'

The film, which will be launched on 19 June as part of TORCH’s Big Tent cultural programme, will be released at 10am on Friday 19 June, followed by a global live-streamed discussion with the director and academic speakers. The project will also create accompanying educational resources for use in schools, and will work with Oxford Spires Academy on creative responses to the Cabaret.

Full list of awards:

Social Sciences Division 
  • COVID-19 and climate change (Professor Cameron Hepburn, School of Geography and the Environment)
  • Experiences of adolescent to parent violence in the COVID-19 pandemic (Professor Rachel Condry, Centre for Criminology)
  • Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on economic outcomes and well-being of rural communities in Western Uganda (Dr Emma Riley, Department of Economics)
  • Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker survey (Dr Anna Petherick, Blavatnik School of Government)
  • UK Lockdown Impact on Family dynamics and Energy use (UK LIFE) (Dr Philipp Grünewald, School of Geography and the Environment)
  • Impact of COVID-19 on migrants in the UK and UK immigration policy (Dr Marina Fernandez-Reino, School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography)
  • The impacts of COVID-19 on workers in the gig economy (Professor Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute)
  • Using existing poverty data to inform emergency COVID-19 responses in developing countries (Dr Sabina Alkire, Department of International Development)
  • Oxford COVID-19 Policy Trackers: Improving social policy monitoring (Dr Marek Naczyk, Department of Social Policy and Intervention)
  • Health impacts of social and environmental restrictions from UK lockdown: Identifying changes in household eating and activity patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic (Professor Stanley Ulijaszek, School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography)
Medical Sciences Division 
  • The worldwide impact of social and moral psychology on public health during COVID-19 (Dr Patricia Lockwood, Department of Experimental Psychology)
  • Peer support training for adolescents during the COVID-19 outbreak (Dr Gabriela Pavarini, Department of Psychiatry)
  • A social media analysis and scoping literature review of public attitudes towards a COVID-19 vaccine (Dr Samantha Vanderslott, Department of Paediatrics)
  • Economic impacts of COVID-19: Evidence from the EMIS COVID-19 Symptom Surveillance tool (Professor Petrou Stavros, Primary Care Health Sciences)
  • Combating COVID-19 related fake news with targeted engagement and health messaging in Southeast Asia (Dr Mary Chambers, Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health)
Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division
  • Synthesising evidence on the links between wildlife conservation and COVID-19 for engagement with a neglected audience: teenagers and young adults (Professr E.J. Milner-Gulland, Department of Zoology)
Humanities Division


The Economic, Social, Cultural & Environmental Impacts of COVID-19: Urgent Response Fund was made possible by the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) and Oxford ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA)