School of Public Health professors secure funding to disrupt pandemic challenges

Projects to address testing and misinformation receive research support from Peterson Foundation fund

Three researchers at the Brown University School of Public Health have been awarded the prestigious Peter G. Peterson Foundation Pandemic Response Policy Research Fund in support of their work on pandemic-related challenges. The fund supports inventive, interdisciplinary research that provides policy makers in public health, health care, fiscal policy, economics, and education with the tools needed to tackle the far-reaching effects of infectious disease emergencies. 
Recipients of the 2023 Peterson Foundation Fund awards from the Brown University School of Public Health are: 

  • Claire Wardle, co-director of the Information Futures Lab (IFL) and professor of the practice of health services, policy, and practice
  • Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the Pandemic Center and professor of epidemiology
  • Beth Cameron, senior advisor to the Pandemic Center and professor of the practice of health services, policy, and practice

Wardle, in partnership with co-director Stefanie Friedhoff, research manager Rory Smith and the IFL team have received funding for an innovative project aimed at providing decision makers with a better understanding of what works in preventing and curbing the spread of pandemic-related rumors, inaccuracies and falsehoods.  

With the award’s support, the IFL is building an online resource that translates a  systematic literature review of COVID-19 misinformation interventions into accessible content for key audiences. The team will use the collected data to create interactive reports, dashboards, data visualizations and guidance. By engaging public health and healthcare practitioners, journalists, policy makers, researchers, funders and platform leaders, the team will connect new evidence with practice, and make the latest evidence on misinformation interventions actionable. 

“We have been working on this literature review for almost a year, and we’re thrilled that this award will enable us to work with policy makers and other communications and public health professionals, to add qualitative data collection and develop  a website that will actually be useful for those trying to mitigate the impact of misinformation,” said Wardle. “It would be easy for this review to gather dust as an unread pdf, but this grant will help us translate our findings into a useful tool for practitioners.”
Nuzzo and Cameron, along with Scott Becker, the executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, are leading a multidisciplinary project to develop a “Diagnostic Testing Playbook for Emerging Infectious Disease Emergencies.” They aim to provide public health officials and policymakers with a clear, evidence-based guide for making rapid, effective decisions regarding the development and scaling of diagnostic testing during infectious outbreaks.
“Staff from the Pandemic Center and the State and Territorial Alliance for Testing (STAT) here at the School of Public Health are conducting key interviews with over 30 decision makers in the testing/diagnostics space at the state and federal level,” said Leah Perkinson, director of research translation and evaluation at the School of Public Health. “With support from this grant, our team is drawing from our collective network to interview individuals from a number of federal agencies, commercial labs, academic labs, state health departments and more. We'll use learnings to inform a decision playbook that can help states and the US government scale up testing as efficiently and with as much vertical and horizontal coordination as possible during an infectious disease emergency.”
Peter G. Peterson Foundation Pandemic Response Policy Research Fund was established to support inventive, interdisciplinary research focused on the challenges posed by pandemics. It seeks to generate potential solutions for policymakers to consider in the fields of public health, healthcare, fiscal policy, the economy, and education.

“These innovative research projects will help improve our understanding about future pandemics and their aftermath,” said Jill Pipher, Vice President for Research at Brown University. “They address hard lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic in critical areas including testing diagnostics, data privacy, misinformation and learning loss — and will help guide policymakers going forward.”