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Integrating the social sciences into the COVID-19 response in Alberta, Canada
  1. Myles Leslie1,
  2. Raad Fadaak1,
  3. Jan Davies2,3,
  4. Johanna Blaak2,
  5. PG Forest1,
  6. Lee Green4,
  7. John Conly2,3,5
  1. 1School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2W21C Research and Innovation Centre, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  3. 3Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  4. 4Family Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  5. 5Infection Prevention and Control, Alberta Health Services, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Raad Fadaak; raad.fadaak{at}


This paper outlines the rapid integration of social scientists into a Canadian province’s COVID-19 response. We describe the motivating theory, deployment and initial outcomes of our team of Organisational Sociologist ethnographers, Human Factors experts and Infection Prevention and Control clinicians focused on understanding and improving Alberta’s responsiveness to the pandemic. Specifically, that interdisciplinary team is working alongside acute and primary care personnel, as well as public health leaders to deliver ‘situated interventions’ that flow from studying communications, interpretations and implementations across responding organisations. Acting in real time, the team is providing critical insights on policy communication and implementation to targeted members of the health system. Using our rapid and ongoing deployment as a case study of social science techniques applied to a pandemic, we describe how other health systems might leverage social science to improve their preparations and communications.

  • health systems
  • health policy
  • health services research
  • public health
  • epidemiology

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Handling editor Seye Abimbola

  • Contributors Drafting of the manuscript: ML and RF led the drafting of the manuscript, with key support from JD and JC. Critical revisions and important intellectual contributions: JB, PF and LG.

  • Funding This work is supported by the Government of Canada, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) through the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Genome Canada (GC). Funding supplied through the Canadian 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Rapid Research Funding Opportunity, #202002COV.

  • Disclaimer The sponsors had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; preparation, review or approval of the manuscript; nor the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval for the full study was granted by the University of Calgary’s Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board (CHREB) on 11 March 2020 (REB20-0371).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No additional data are available.

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