I-CPIE Team Researching Community Resilience in the COVID-19 Pandemic Awarded Lehigh CORE Grant

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An illustration revealing the ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))

The Institute for Cyber Physical Infrastructure & Energy’s (I-CPIE’s) Community Resilience Team was recently awarded a Collaborative Research Opportunity (CORE) Grant from Lehigh to support ongoing research on cultural perceptions of risk, behavioral responses, and community resilience in the COVID-19 Pandemic. CORE Grants provide research funding to establish and grow productive and competitive multi-faculty research programs. 

The team is a multidisciplinary collaboration among I-CPIE faculty from Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences, P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, and College of Business and includes:

Formed in July 2018, the team has been developing an interdisciplinary lens through which disaster recovery can be better understood by exploring how human perception of recovery shapes community recovery. Though initially focused on disaster recovery in North Carolina related to Hurricane Florence, in early March, the team decided to pivot to focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic, given the unique opportunity to study responses in real time. The research team believes that perceptions of how infrastructure and other people are recovering after a disaster affects behaviors like re-opening a businesses or repairing homes. Such perceptions can influence whether communities recover faster or more slowly.

Through online surveys, telephone interviews, and modeling, the team will seek to understand how perceptions of COVID-19 risk are formed and transformed into behaviors that impact recovery of institutions and communities. The online survey will be repeated throughout the year to measure changes in perceptions and behaviors over time. The first two rounds of surveys in April revealed how people combine cultural resources like scientific information with disaster scenarios from films, television, and religious sources to think about the severity of threats.

Nearly all respondents were complying with requests to social distance and stay at home. The team will conduct in-depth telephone interviews beginning in June while people are changing their behaviors. Casagrande says, “telephone interviews will provide deeper insights into how people evaluated information sources and how they used past experiences with disasters to react to the pandemic and make decisions during the recovery.” Research on COVID-19 moves the team toward their broader goal of understanding complex interactions between infrastructure functionality, public behavior, decision-making, and recovery after disasters.