COVID Information Commons: Lightning Talks (May 2022)


The May 2022 COVID Information Commons (CIC) webinar took place on May 5th, 2022. In this forum, leading COVID-19 scientists funded by the NSF presented their current research on the global pandemic. Florence Hudson, Executive Director of the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub at Columbia University and COVID Information Commons Principal Investigator (PI), and Kenia Pujols, CIC Program Manager, moderated the discussion. The researchers presented a wide variety of topics, each touching on broader themes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. All four projects are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).


First, we heard from Lindsey Richland, from the University of California, who presented her research: Impacts of COVID-19 Out-of-School Stressors on Executive Function and E- Learning.

Richland’s research focused on the way COVID-19 has affected education in the U.S. Her work showed the relationship between external stressors and students’ ability to retain knowledge and develop new ideas in the classroom. Her findings showed that the social anxieties which arose in reaction to the pandemic affected students’ execution of complex cognitive tasks.

A video of Lindsey Richland’s presentation can be found on the CIC website.

Next, Michael Rosenfeld, of Stanford University, discussed his research: Online Social Networks, Relationships, and COVID-19.

His study of couples and romantic relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic found that partnered adults fared better than their single counterparts during the pandemic. It was posited that this was possibly due to Family Resilience Theory, which suggested that positive relationships bolstered a sense of communal solidarity and comfort in the face of external threats. Similar studies of relationships in the aftermath of disasters has shown a paradoxical strengthening of primary social bonds and resilience in the face of tragedies. 

A video of Michael Rosenfeld’s presentation can be found on the CIC website.

Next, we heard from Mikaela Meyer, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie-Mellon University, about her research with Principal Investigators Daniel S Nagin and Amelia M Haviland: Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Crime and Corrections Populations.

Meyer’s work focused on the changes in crime rates which took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research showed an increase in the homicide and auto theft rates during the pandemic alongside a downturn in robbery and larceny rates. Interestingly, burglary rates showed a statistically significant drop in 2020. Overall, Meyer and her colleagues caution against advancing the popular media theory that crime accelerated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.

A video of Mikaela Meyer’s presentation can be found on the CIC website.

To conclude the webinar, we heard from Mingxuan Liu, a student from University of Southern California, on her research with Principal Investigator Dmitri Williams and Emilio Ferrara: Natural experiments with online games: Support, impact, and mitigation during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Liu presented her work on the use of video games to combat social isolation during pandemic lockdowns in the U.S. Her research showed a significant increase in the consistency of gameplace during COVID-19, but not a direct correlation between increased daily gaming and overall psychological well-being. Increased gameplay resulted in higher levels of competence, which supported higher feelings of satisfaction and overall psychological well-being scores among players. 

A video of Mingxuan Liu’s presentation can be found on the CIC website.

Following the presentations, Florence Hudson and Kenia Pujols hosted a Q&A session where the audience engaged in a rich discussion with the researchers. These talks offered great insights about the impact of COVID-19 on U.S. social policy and research.

A recording of this event is available on the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub’s YouTube Channel and the COVID Information Commons website. The COVID Information Commons is an NSF-funded project brought to you by the Big Data Innovation Hubs, led by the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub at Columbia University. 

We look forward to welcoming you to our next webinar. Stay tuned! 


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