Current projects and research on COVID-19

Posted on Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Microscopic view of COVID-19

This page is a collection of current research projects at the Faculty of Social Sciences that relate to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts. The information on this page is in English; you will find projects in French on the French version of this page.

If you are currently conducting research and would like your project to appear on this page, please write to Mireille.Brownhill@uOttawa.ca.


Andrea Ashbaugh - Psychology

Led by Professor Ashbaugh, the research team at the Cognition and Anxiety Studies Laboratory at the School of Psychology is conducting a study examining the impact of moral decision making during the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s well-being.


Tim Aubry & John Sylvestre - Psychology

  • A study of the delivery of tele-mental health services to people with severe and persistent mental illness with a history of homelessness

    The study team partnered with a local community mental health organization that delivers a variety of psychosocial programs to people with severe mental illness and histories of homelessness or unstable housing. Due to public health restrictions implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that limited in-person contact, the organization rapidly transitioned to providing their services via tele-mental health. To support their clients in the transition to tele-mental health services, the organization also provided mobile phones to clients. This study examined the perceptions of the phone handout program and the transition to tele-mental health services from the perspectives of mental health case managers and their clients, with a focus on perceived changes, benefits, challenges, and recommendations.
  • Telehealth group interventions for substance use and behavioural addictions in a community mental health setting during the COVID-19 pandemic

    The study team partnered with a community mental health organization in Ottawa that provides services to support individuals with substance use and behavioural addictions and their loved ones. Many of their programs contain a group component. Due to public health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was no longer possible to provide these services in person and to continue to support their clients, the organization had to rapidly transition to virtual implementation of these groups and other services. This study examined the experience of virtual groups at Rideauwood Addictions and Family Services from the perspective of group facilitators and clients. The focus was on gaining an in-depth understanding of their perceptions of the logistical aspects of group implementation, the therapeutic relationship between facilitators and group members, the relationships among group members, group dynamics and cohesion, benefits, and challenges.

Stephen Baranyi - International Development and Global Studies &
Dominique Masson - Feminist and Gender Studies

Professors Masson and Baranyi will play key roles in the seven year Engendering Disability-Inclusive Development (EDID) project led by Guelph University professor Deborah Stienstra.

Key roles for uOttawa profs in new SSHRC-funded partnership project


Chris Bruckert and Emma McKenna, Criminology

COVID-19, Social Safety Nets, and Sex Work in the Capital Region

This project investigates the struggles, resilience, and resistance of sex workers in the Ottawa-Gatineau area during the COVID-19 pandemic. In collaboration with POWER, this bilingual research project will assess barriers to sex workers’ ability to access social safety nets. While much has been written about the Criminal Code’s effect on sex workers’ rights, there is an absence of scholarship that focuses on more mundane public policies, for instance tax law and Employment Insurance (EI) regulations. Establishing sex workers’ access to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and EI in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic will begin to address this gap and inform future policy and activism.


Ivy Lynn Bourgeault - Sociology and Anthropology

Assessing the Capacity of the Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce to Respond to COVID-19

The people who provide mental health and substance use services play acritical role in the response to COVID-19.The pandemic has brought about big changes for this workforce and we know from previous disasters and epidemics that the mental health and substance use impacts are likely to be complex and long-lasting, and may not fully emerge until after the worst of the crisis. Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), this study will provide better information about the availability of mental health professionals like psychologists, social workers and addictions counsellors to respond to the mental health and substance use needs of people in response to COVID-19. This will help to address gaps in information about how COVID-19 has changed the kinds of mental and substance use services that people need and that can be offered, and to provide the people who make decisions about mental health and substances use services with the information they need to improve these services.

Infographic: COVID-19 Impacts on the Mental Health and Substance Use Health (MHSUH) Workforce in Canada


Nathalie Burlone & Eric Champagne - Political Studies & Centre on Governance

Professors Burlone and Champagne, in collaboration with colleagues from the Université de Sherbrooke and McGill University, are participating in a CIHR-funded research project to study the links between communications, public health and psychology during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study is titled "Adaptive Responses of Public Actors in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis".

Research project on COVID-19 awarded CIHR funding

First Report on the WHO Global Response to COVID-19

The WHO’s risky communication strategy created confusion around COVID-19


Jude Mary Cénat - Psychology


Patrick Fafard - Public and International Affairs

Professor Fafard, who is also Associate Director of the Global Strategy Lab, received funding from the Government of Canada that will enable his team to develop public health intervention strategies to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases in Canada and elsewhere.

Patrick Fafard receives funding from Canada to fight COVID-19

Communication about COVID-19 from Canadian provincial chief medical officers of health: a qualitative study

Public health and political science: challenges and opportunities for a productive partnership


Christopher Fennell - Psychology

Professor Fennell, director of the Language Development Laboratory, is conducting a study in collaboration with an international team to examine the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown on language development in infants and young toddlers. Decades of research have shown that increased exposure to parental speech advances early language development while increased exposure to screens has negative effects. In this unique modern period where parents and young children spending all their time together, will we see a vocabulary surge due to increased parental contact?

Study: Social isolation due to COVID-19 and vocabulary development: Insights from families with varying social backgrounds

COVID-19 first lockdown as a unique window into language acquisition: What you do(with your child) matters


Christine Gibb - International Development and Global Studies

Professor Gibb, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Vermont, University of Colorado Boulder and New York University, is leading a study exploring the lived experiences of children, teens and older adults in Canada and the U.S., examining vulnerability, mobilities, and capacities. With the support of a New Frontiers in Research Fund - Rapid Response grant, the research team is partnering with the National Campus and Community Radio Association to safely connect presumed vulnerable groups through the co-creation of an intergenerational podcast. The results of this project will contribute to better disaster preparedness, responses, and policies and support systems that address the specific challenges and resilience of these potentially vulnerable and highly diverse groups.

Life in COVID Study


Thomas Juneau - Public and International Affairs

The COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for the Canadian national security and intelligence community

The role of Canada’s intelligence and national security community has been widely debated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some describe its emergence as an intelligence failure or a failure of early warning. Others, however, note that the role of intelligence and national security in health matters is and should remain limited. It is also clear that traditional national security threats are evolving rapidly during the pandemic. There are concerns, in particular, about the rise of extremist violence as well as cyber-attacks and disinformation. Our project will study these urgent questions: should Canadian intelligence agencies engage in “health intelligence”? Do they have the tools and mandates to do so, without compromising the law and the privacy of Canadians? How are threats evolving, and what are the challenges in countering them in a pandemic?


Cary Kogan - Psychology

Longitudinal impact of COVID-19 on clinical practice and well-being of global mental health professionals

This CIHR-funded study, led by Professor Kogan and his partners at Columbia University (Professor G. Reed) and the Canadian Institute for Health Information (Dr. K. Denny), is a large international collaborative investigation that will assess the longitudinal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health practitioners and mental health practice. Emerging data document the immediate consequences of confronting the COVID-19 pandemic on health professionals, which may include anxiety, depression, insomnia, and overall distress including fear of contracting COVID-19 and infecting others. A detailed survey will be implemented in six languages through the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Global Clinical Practice Network (GCPN). The GCPN is the largest, most diverse international practice-based research network ever established, comprising over 15,500 clinicians from 159 countries.

Register for GCP.Network


Patrick Leblond - Public and International Affairs

The CN-Paul M. Tellier Chair on Business and Public Policy, with the support of an advisory committee of experts from business, government and academia, is investigating how the governments of Canada, Ontario and Quebec interacted with the business community to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath in Canada. Using media reports, interviews with business and government officials as well documentary evidence, the study seeks to assess the nature of business-government cooperation with respect to crisis management and prevention in Canada. To learn more visit their website.


Geoff McCarney - International Development and Global Studies

Agile Regulation for Post-COVID-19 Clean Innovation, Recovery and Growth in Canada

While the pandemic has proven detrimental to the Canadian and global economies, it also provides an opportunity to kick-start the transition to a cleaner economy, and to work to do things differently as our country and economy open back up and rebuild. The “build back better” agenda strongly emphasizes accelerating clean growth in Canada to align a post-COVID-19 recovery with both a low- carbon transition and recent policy commitments by the Federal Government for net-zero emissions in 2050, so as to position Canada as a leader in this rapidly growing market.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting to a more “agile” regulatory system -- one that is stringent but also flexible and predictable -- was increasingly understood as necessary for accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy. In a COVID-19 world, such a shift takes on additional urgency to ensure that ongoing recovery measures and any further public investments, stimulus programs, or recovery policies achieve the combined objective to both maximize economic recovery while also transiting to cleaner growth.

The focus this project is accordingly to improve understanding of agile regulatory approaches, to ensure existing regulatory regimes do not become the primary rate-limiting step for a clean COVID-19 economic recovery. The goals of the research are to identify, examine, assess, and learn from recent Canadian experience with agile regulation. In doing so, the project will inform regulatory approaches that will foster clean innovation and economic growth in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining stringency of the regulatory process.

Agile Regulation for Clean Energy Innovation: Examining the Early Experience of Two Canadian Institutions

Related blog posts:


Alex McClelland - Criminology

Sociolegal researcher and Banting Postdoctoral Fellow Alex McClelland launched the Policing the Pandemic Mapping Project on April 4, 2020 "to track and visualize the massive and extraordinary expansions of police power in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the unequal patterns of enforcement that may arise as a result."

Policing the Pandemic


Justin Piché - Criminology

The Prison Pandemic Partnership is a research and advocacy initiative led by Kevin Walby (University of Winnipeg | Centre for Access to Information and Justice), Justin Piché (University of Ottawa | Criminalization and Punishment Education Project), and Abby Deshman (Canadian Civil Liberties Association), which examines the impact of COVID-19 on jails, prisons, and penitentiaries across the country. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) through their Partnership Engage grant, the initiative has tracked COVID-19 cases linked to these congregate settings and generated unpublished government records on the pandemic response behind bars through access to information requests. To date, team members have commented on the impact of COVID-19 on imprisonment in over 200 media stories and have published a total of six op-eds in Policy Options, The Hill Times and the Ottawa Citizen based on their research. Forthcoming academic papers stemming from the initiative’s work are forthcoming in the Canadian Journal of Sociology, Criminologie, and the 2021 Canadian Yearbook of Human Rights.

See some of Professor Piché's media interviews on the list of COVID-related media interventions at FSS


Roland Pongou - Economics, and Sanni Yaya - International Development and Global Studies

This collaboration between professors Pongou and Yaya along with Dr. Stéphanie Maltais, Postdoctoral Researcher, Dr. Marie Christelle Mabeu, Postdoctoral researcher and Arunika Agarwal, Research Associate at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, aims to collect information on the first, second and third waves of COVID-19  and the prevalence of COVID-19 symptoms and social distancing behaviour in Canada in order to learn how education, income, employment, and flu-like symptoms are linked to social distancing. The results of this survey will be used for academic research in order to help public health specialists and policymakers recommend effective measures over the coming days.

COVID-19 Symptoms and Social Distancing Web Survey (CLOSED)

Wave 2 COVID-19 Symptoms & Social Distancing Web Survey (CLOSED)

Wave 3 COVID-19 Symptoms and Social Distancing Web Survey


Rébecca Robillard - Psychology

  • On April 3rd 2020, a group of 20 scientists from eight hospitals across Ontario and Quebec, led by Professor Rébecca Robillard, launched an exhaustive longitudinal online survey assessing the financial, social and psychological impacts of COVID-19 at different stages of the outbreak. In addition to monitoring the general population, targeted questions are included for critical populations such as healthcare workers and people with chronic physical or mental illnesses. Participants also have the option of linking their survey information to provincial health administrative data and to social media activity for mood monitoring through artificial intelligence algorithms.

    Study: How are you coping during COVID-19?
  • The Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition is partnering with other scientists, namely uOttawa's Rébecca Robillard, to evaluate longitudinal changes in health outcomes during this pandemic, and investigate how sociocultural factors may modulate the multifaceted impacts of this pandemic on Indigenous health. This pandemic has caused profound societal disruptions with downstream impacts on mental and physical health, and serious concerns have been raised about disproportionate impacts on Indigenous communities. In Canada, rates of COVID-19 infections within Indigenous communities recently underwent sharp increases. How this will continue to evolve, and the collateral effects of the pandemic on other mental and physical health conditions, will undoubtedly be influenced by a range of social, cultural and economic factors.
  • Developing a culturally safe public health response to COVID-19 with First Nation
    The aim of this research is to understand how the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn ways of knowing can inform public health responses at local, provincial, federal and global levels, to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 and maximize the health of Indigenous Peoples. The team, lead by Wendy Gifford from the Faculty of Health Sciences, includes an Algonquin First Nations Knowledge Keeper of traditional ways of knowing and practices, a health and social services supervisor within Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, and an Indigenous scholar from the First Nation with expertise in public health policy and sex and gender. Their knowledge translation plan involves the use of short video as part of a documentary film in addition to disseminating summaries to Indigenous health forums, provincial and national health agencies and ministries. Deliverables can inform Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments and community members re-evaluate their own disaster mitigation approaches in pandemics or for future threats.

Krystelle Shaughnessy - Psychology

Professor Shaughnessy and the Individual and Social Influences of Technology (INSITE) Lab at the University of Ottawa are conducting a study to learn how people use new technologies to connect with others during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research will help improve knowledge about technology use and its impact during the pandemic.

Time 4 of the Social Technology & Physical Distancing study


Alexis Hieu Truong - Criminology

This action research project, funded by a Partnership Engage Grant (SSHRC), aims to better define and address the social and organizational factors surrounding the experience of emotional difficulties faced by community service providers working with highly marginalized populations in the context of the social and health crisis related to COVID-19. This project is a partnership between Professor Katharine Larose-Hébert (Université TÉLUQ), Professor Isabelle Le Pain (Université Sherbrooke), Professor Alexis Hieu Truong of uOttawa, the Regroupement pour l’aide aux itinérants et itinerants de Québec (RAIIQ, the Alliance des groupes d’intervention pour le rétablissement en santé mentale (AGIR) and the Regroupement des organismes de personnes handicapées de la région 03 (ROP 03).


Myra Yazbeck - Economics

Health, Wellbeing and household dynamics among Women and Vulnerable Population in the times of COVID-19

COVID-19 has brought the economy of India to a complete standstill and has affected employment, incomes and livelihood of millions of households. The scenario is particularly worse among the most vulnerable part of the population who are of lower income groups and are residing in the slums. These slums experience widespread poverty, inequality, and high risk of transmission of COVID-19 due to high population density,
lack of job opportunities and food insecurity. The objective of this project is to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on wellbeing of vulnerable Indians, particularly the mental health and wellbeing of female members of the households, who are responsible for most of the household chores, elderly and child care and are also most likely victims of domestic violence. Thus, it is crucial that we understand how key members of the vulnerable households are coping to avoid intergeneration perpetuation of vulnerability.

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