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Stronger behavioural viewpoint needed in management of COVID-19 crisis

Government Communications Department
11.11.2020 10.36 | Published in English on 17.11.2020 at 14.24
Press release 705/2020

The Prime Minister’s Office has launched a project to develop and experiment in practice with the application of behavioural data in managing the COVID-19 crisis, including in preparing policy measures and assessing the behavioural impacts of the crisis and in planning and implementing communications. The aim is to strengthen the central government’s capacity to apply behavioural data within the ministries and the agencies operating under them.

“As long as we do not have a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, we need to emphasise the prevention of infections. Our success depends on people’s behaviour, so it is important to strengthen the ability of the public administration to understand the factors that influence behaviour,” explains Director General Seppo Määttä from the Prime Minister’s Office, who chairs the project’s steering group.

“Our goal in this project is to develop new operating models for the application of research data in decision-making and to experiment with human-oriented influencing methods. In addition to preventing the spread of the virus, we also aim to support the authorities in correcting the problems caused by the crisis. The ultimate objective is, of course, to minimise the disruption of activities in society and to help people create a new normal life that flows as smoothly and comfortably as possible,” says Project Manager Markus Kanerva

From the earliest stages of COVID-19, a number of countries, both in Europe and elsewhere, have been utilising behavioural expertise to support decision-making related to the crisis. With the second wave, the interest of decision-makers has increased even further. The WHO has also stressed the importance of behavioural science and research in managing the crisis. 

The working group for the project includes representatives from a variety of disciplines within the behavioural sciences, such as social psychology, psychology, behaviour change research, behavioural economics and health economics. The members of the working group are Doctoral Researcher in Social Psychology Matti Heino (University of Helsinki), Senior Specialist Markus Kanerva (Prime Minister’s Office), Psychologist Ville Ojanen, PhD (Academy of Brain Oy) and Academy Research Fellow Lauri Sääksvuori (Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare). 

The project steering group consists of State Secretary Maria Kaisa Aula (Ministry of Finance), State Secretary Ville Kopra (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment), Director General Seppo Määttä (Prime Minister’s Office), Director Pasi Pohjola (Ministry of Transport), Senior Ministerial Adviser Anna Similä (Ministry of Transport and Communications), Director-General Olli-Pekka Heinonen (Finnish National Agency for Education), Deputy Director of Government Communications Päivi Paasikoski (Prime Minister’s Office), Director General of Communications Elina Ravantti (Ministry for Foreign Affairs), Chief Specialist Anna Rotkirch (Prime Minister’s Office), Associate Professor Nelli Hankonen (University of Helsinki), Adjunct Professor Pilvikki Absetz, PhD (Psychology) (freelance) and PhD Tiina Likki (freelance). 

The project will continue until the end of March 2021.

Inquiries: Seppo Määttä, Director General, Chair of the project steering group, tel. +358 295 160 598, [email protected] and Markus Kanerva, Senior Specialist, Project Manager, tel. +358 295 160 037, [email protected], Prime Minister’s Office