CEHC Professor Presents Lightning Talk on COVID-19 Research

CEHC's Samantha Penta spoke about her ongoing research on pandemic risk perception and human behavior.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 29, 2020) – Samantha Penta of the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) is among the many campus faculty actively leading research across a range of disciplines to better understand the COVID-19 crisis.

Penta’s research, funded through a National Science Foundation (NSF) Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant, is focused on pandemic risk perception and human behavior. She recently shared details during a virtual NSF-funded COVID-19 research lighting talk hosted by Northeast Big Data Hub. The monthly sessions bring together researchers via Zoom to discuss their efforts to fight COVID-19 and opportunities for collaboration.

CEHC's Samantha Penta interviews with CBS 6  at University Hall about COVID-19 and social media.

Penta was interviewed by CBS 6 last semester about COVID-19 and social media. (Photo by Mike Nolan)

You can watch Penta’s presentation here.

“The basis of this study is grounded in the notion that how the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds is fundamentally linked to human behavior,” said Penta, during the discussion. “It’s incredibly important to understand what people are (or are not) doing and why they are doing it.”

Penta, along with her research collaborators, which includes CEHC Assistant Professor Amber Silver and Lauren Clay at D’Youville College, are using three sources to gain insight on how COVID-19 is being presented and discussed: a web-based survey, social media and regional/national media outlets.

Their survey is presented to around 700 to 900 individuals at a time in New York, Washington and Louisiana. Questions are focused on risk perceptions of the virus, what behaviors they are seeing around them, protective actions and more general questions around pandemic-related stress, access to food supply, etc.

The researchers are simultaneously following virus messaging trends in each geographical region through national and regional media outlets and on social media.

“We believe this study will improve the research and health community’s understanding of how people perceive risks, particularly when the threat itself is not visible,” said Penta, an assistant professor at CEHC. “If we can learn what leads to certain protective actions, perhaps we can get more people to engage in them.”

Their analysis will run at monthly intervals in order to capture changing risk perceptions and behavioral responses as the pandemic continues to evolve. Data collection will conclude next summer. The analysis is ongoing, with findings published during and after data collection periods.

Learn more about this research, including reports as they are published, at the project website.

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