School of Psychology

COVID-19 Research


School of Psychology COVID-19 Research

The school of Psychology have a wealth of expertise covering research areas associated with COVID-19. Here are some examples of the work we have been involved in:


Dr Sarah Cassidy and Professor Ellen Townsend

Roundtable publication 

Dr Sarah Cassidy recently moderated and published a roundtable “An expert discussion on autism in the COVID-19 pandemic” in the Journal Autism in Adulthood. The roundtable included autistic adults, parents of autistic adults, researchers, medics and public health practitioners, who discussed how COVID-19 was impacting autistic adults and their families, and what could be done through research, policy and practice to better support them in these uncertain and unprecedented times.

The roundtable is availableto read through this link.

Ethical questions publication 

Additionally, Ellen Townsend and Sarah Cassidy have published a paper in The Lancet that addresses ethical questions for research during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the full paper here.




Professor Eamonn Ferguson

Eamonn is involved in a number of ongoing COVID-19 projects.

Health, wellbeing and cooperation

Eamonn is part of an academic team, headed by Prof Rory O'Connor, conducting a UK national tracker (COVID-MH UK tracker) to explore how mental health, wellbeing and cooperation change over the course of the pandemic and vary across demographic groups. This work is crucial to develop interventions and inform evidence-based policy. A second Scotland only mental health and wellbeing tracker (n=2,500 for 12 months) has been added, funded by the Scottish Government.

Convalescent plasma treatment and blood donation

In the absence of a treatment for COVID-19, convalescent plasma (CP) derived from people recovered from COVID-19 infection can be used to reduce symptom severity in COVID-19 patients. Understanding the motivations and barriers for CP donation is crucial to this endeavour. Eamonn is exploring the motivations and barriers for CP donation in the UK (with Dr Claire Lawrence) and Australia in collaboration with the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood (Lifeblood) and Professor Barbara Masser. Eamonn is also collaborating with Professor Masser to better understand donors’ and non-donors’ propensity to donate blood during the pandemic.

Farmers’ decision making about infectious disease outbreaks

It is important to understand how COVID-19 may impact on decision making linked to the UK economy. Eamonn is part of team working on a BBSRC funded grant with Warwick University and Nottingham University Vet School, investigating the impact of farmers’ decision making (e.g., cooperation, trust and attitudes) with respect to infectious disease outbreaks in livestock. This ongoing work has been responsive to the COVID-19 context and added questions on farmers’ experiences and perceptions of the pandemic.



 Dr Anthea Gulliford and Professor Nicola Pitchford

Home schooling, wellbeing and support 

In the first week of lock down Anthea Gulliford and Nicola Pitchford contributed to the University’s blog, writing on home schooling, wellbeing, and the use of educational apps. Following publication of the blog, Anthea Gulliford held interviews with BBC Radio Nottingham and local radio station GEM 106, on how to support family wellbeing and young people’s learning in the homeschooling era. As restrictions still being in place, maintaining family wellbeing will become an increasing priority.

Cabinet Office seeks advice from School of Psychology on learning with digital technologies during COVID-19 pandemic

Nicola Pitchford and Anthea Gulliford were contacted by the Open Innovation Team within the UK Cabinet Office to give advice on using digital technologies effectively to support learning from home during the COVID-19 crisis. Their consultation informed decision making by the Department for Education on the potential use of technology to mitigate the effects of school closures on disadvantaged children. Their input helped to secure funding for laptops for many children who do not already have access to a computer 

They received a personalised thank you from the Cabinet Office for assisting with this policy decision. In addition, Directors of Education in Nottingham City, where the Free School Meal rate – the key SES indicator - is significantly higher than the national average, have shared their thanks for this contribution to an initiative that has benefited many local children




Dr Christopher Madan

Virtual patients to improve medical education

Chris Madan was successful in obtaining funding from Innovate UK for research related to improving medical education using virtual patients, in collaboration with Rakesh Patel in the School of Medicine and Isabel Healthcare Ltd.

The funding provided will be used to create an online learning platform enabling medical students and junior doctors to develop essential skills, even without face-to-face time with patients. The learning platform will use a unique combination of virtual cases and AI powered clinical decision support technology, that will help them to develop the knowledge, problem-solving and decision-making skills they need.

For more information and the full UoN press release, please follow this link.


Chris Madan


Dr Lauren Marsh and Dr Danielle Ropar


Lauren Marsh and Danielle Ropar have been awarded a small grant from the UKRI STEMM-CHANGE Project. The project will examine neurodiverse experiences of online interactions, with a view to producing a set of guidelines for making them more inclusive.

We are currently relying on online communications more than ever before. The transition to online working was rapid and occurred without consideration for the impact on neurodiverse staff. In particular online meetings for interviews, meetings, and teaching have become a default, although they may be particularly difficult for neurodiverse individuals for two reasons. First, neurodiverse individuals have difficulty picking up subtle social signals, making it difficult to know when to speak, or whether their audience is attentive (Hale & Tager-Flusberg, 2005). These signals are further diminished in online interactions, exacerbating this challenge. Second, neurodiverse individuals report a range of sensory integration issues which can lead to difficulties in attending to relevant information (Iarocci & McDonald, 2006). Online interactions, where multiple video and audio feeds need to be processed and attended to selectively may be particularly challenging.






Professor Nicola Pitchford

Helping the poorest children to guard against COVID-19 by gifting soap

For the past 7 years, Nicola Pitchford has been conducting research in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries.  In Malawi, provision of healthcare is very limited, especially in remote rural villages. This means these communities are particularly vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus, which could have devastating effects if it takes hold in these communities.  To protect villagers in Malawi from the COVID-19 virus, Nicola has been working with the Datum Foundation to organise bulk purchase of soap and plastic buckets and institute a regime of regular handwashing in the villages where the Datum Foundation work.

Creation and Development tablet- based learning for Children

Resources are more-timely than ever given the challenges to children’s education as a result of COVID-19. As more organisations and governments are exploring the use of tablet-based learning to provide access to education in a time of social distancing, a new series of toolkits provide suggestions on how to get started.  Nicola Pitchford has developed a new series of toolkits with Imagine Worldwide and Voluntary Service Overseas to provide guidance to organisations designing and implementing child-directed, tablet-based learning programmes. Following these toolkits should ensure high fidelity when implementing tablet-based learning programmes. The toolkits can be downloaded here.



Dr Jonathan Peirce

PsychoPy and Pavlovia 

PsychoPy and Pavlovia are behavioural science research tools, developed in the School of Psychology, to facilitate the running and sharing of experiments in psychology, linguistics, economics and neuroscience. One of the unique selling points of PsychoPy, when combined with Pavlovia, is that it allows researchers to take the same experiment they were running in the laboratory and run it online without face-to-face contact. In the wake of Covid lockdowns, PsychoPy and Pavlovia have been hugely important to labs and students all over the world that suddenly found themselves otherwise unable to collect data for their research projects.



Professor Ellen Townsend 

Potential impact of the pandemic/lockdown on children and adolescents

Ellen is a member the steering group for the International COVID-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration. She has published commentaries in the Lancet Psychiatry on research ethics and suicide prevention during the pandemic.  Ellen wrote a UoN blog entitled ‘Child and adolescent mental health in a post-lockdown world: a ticking time bomb?’ She led an Open Letter to Gavin Williamson (published in the Sunday Times) signed by many world-leading experts calling for the government to release young people from lockdown. She has created and chairs - a team of experts providing evidence about the impact of the lockdown and social distancing on children and adolescents.

Ongoing research related to the pandemic/lockdown

Ellen and UoN colleagues have received a donation from Santander to study individuals whose mental health has been, or is likely to be, disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Ellen will co-lead work on children and adolescents alongside Chris Hollis, Jen Martin (IMH) and Chris Greenhalgh (Computer Science). Ellen is also co-leading an MRC award with Chris Hollis exploring how digital technology can be harnessed to improve mental health in children and adolescents. Some of the work has been refocussed to investigate the impact of the pandemic on mental health. Ellen collaborates as an academic lead on the Multicentre Study of Self-Harm in England, collecting vital data on self-harm during the pandemic


Professor Ellen Townsend has established and is chair of a group of leading academics concerned at the neglect of young people in government policy making during the current global crisis: Researchers in Education and Adolescent Child Health and Wellbeing: https://

Members include Profs Ian Goodyer (co-Chair), Uta Frith, Essi Viding and Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. The multidisciplinary group provide scientific evidence that might help to redress this imbalance through knowledge exchange with policy makers.

Briefings include the impact of lockdown on development, play and wellbeing, loneliness, mental health, self-harm, education, and mental health service provision. The most recent blogs encourage policy makers to choose a different path and put the rights and needs of children first as we enter the next phase of the crisis bhopal-and-delan-devakumar-damage-of-the-lockdown-for-children-and-young-people-lets- choose-a-different-path/ and a present a call to action to prevent further damage to young people covid-19-on-young-people-a-call-to-action/

Reachwell was covered in the September edition of The Psychologist Magazine, which you can read here.




Dr Bahar Tunçgenç

Adherence to distancing and wellbeing

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced the necessity to keep physical distance from others during social encounters to protect both ourselves and others. Despite its challenges for social relationships and our ‘normal’ ways of behaving, what motivates people to engage in distancing, and how does distancing affect people’s wellbeing? Since March, Bahar has been leading an international group of researchers to answer these questions with a global survey conducted in 114 countries. Initial findings of this study have been presented at the Thinking the Pandemic conference and formal reports are currently in progress.

COVID-19 conference: Social BRIDGES

Bahar organied an online conference that took place on 22 – 24 July 2020. This conference featured research investigating how the pandemic has affected our societies, behaviours and wellbeing. A special video competition will follow in September, which early career researchers can enter with their research pitches. For more details, please visit :

Society, Psychology and Behavior During and Post COVID-19

Together with colleagues from other universities, Bahar is putting together a special issue in Frontiers of Psychology titled Society, Psychology and Behavior During and Post COVID-19. If you’ve been conducting research related to the Covid-19 pandemic and/or have ideas that you’d like to share in the form of a publication, please consider submitting your work.

Submissions are accepted in all areas of psychology and behavioural research in the forms of empirical articles, opinion pieces and mini-reviews. Early Career Researchers are encouraged to apply! Abstracts are due 30th September and full manuscripts are due 30th December. Frontiers is an open-access journal; if you need a fee waiver, please contact us and we can try to find a solution. 


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