Turkey and Syria earthquake: evidence-based innovations and guidance for acute crisis response.

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Principal Investigator: Dr Mareike Schomerus (Busara Center for Behavioral Economics)


The purpose of this study is to understand what information-based mechanisms lead to non-compliance with public health measures; how these interact with existing beliefs and anxieties to allow rumours on COVID-19 to gain credence; and what strategies on effective messaging might be able counter a detrimental effect.

The study further seeks to identify how such rumours create further negative social and psychological effects that could point to developing conflictual dynamics.

Concretely, this research will first map how refugees and internally displaced persons access, use and spread information on COVID-19 and what information is transmitted via these channels. These behavioural insights will then be used to help understand how underlying anxieties, beliefs and trust determine whether people judge information as trustworthy.

The study aims to identify how policies or programmes can support mechanisms that debunk damaging rumours and allow people to distinguish verified health information from myths to make better public health choices.

Dr Mareike Schomerus

Principal Investigator

Research on how information on COVID-19 spreads and how it influences people’s actions is urgent—but its utility goes beyond the initial crisis response. Unless we understand how anxieties and beliefs shape who is trusted, we cannot expect to address acute public health concerns or chronic social and political tension.

Expected Outcomes

Utilising behavioural insights on how beliefs and anxieties shape uptake of misinformation on COVID-19, the study will develop a strategy on:

  • how to deliver targeted, accurate, clear and actionable health information;
  • combat the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19; and
  • embed effective messaging in COVID-19 interventions to increase adherence to public health measures.

Other public outputs will include a series of blogs and a journal article.

This research can help improve the health of refugees and IDPs in Kenya, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo through the promotion and spread of verified health information and by limiting the spread of misinformation. The findings can be used to:

  • inform national government responses to COVID-19 through national coordination mechanisms;
  • feed into humanitarian responses through uptake in different humanitarian fora;
  • influence discourse on border policy and practical interventions in borderlands in East Africa towards a community-centred approach.

Latest Updates

Blog: Lessons from a failed research project

26 Sept 2022

In this blog the Busara team candidly reflect on the challenges they encountered studying misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. They share the lessons they learned and hope that this can help others.


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