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5 minutes with SCRUB

5 minutes with SCRUB

This week we sat down with the SCRUB project as part of our series to see how others are tackling the effects of COVID-19. The project aims to provide current and future policy makers with actionable insights into public attitudes and behaviours relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To reach this goal, the project is currently running a “living survey” tracking relevant protective behaviours (e.g. hand washing and social distancing), variations by demographic and location, and their determinants. 

We spoke to Dr. Peter Slattery, one of the core team members of this project, to find out more about it.

Dr. Peter Slattery
Dr. Peter Slattery

Hi Peter, could you start off telling our readers a little about you and your background?

I am a behaviour change researcher with a focus on behaviour change for social benefit. I have a background in entrepreneurship, information and psychology and a deep interest in the more applied aspects of behaviour change.

And a little about the SCRUB project…

The SCRUB project is a real-time survey tracking how groups of people all over the world are behaving. It’s designed to help government policymakers by documenting how relevant public experiences and behaviours are changing over time. It involves more than 120 international collaborators.

The questions used in each new “wave” of the survey are updated based on the feedback of policymakers and changes in the pandemic situation. The Australian team is funded by the Victorian government, which uses the insights to inform policy.

The results are released via a publicly-accessible interactive dashboard, and all data is publicly available for other policymakers and researchers to use. Some of the findings from past waves are summarised here.

Data from the SCRUB project.
Data from the publicly-accessible SCRUB project dashboard.

Certainly sounds interesting! How did the idea come about?

I saw that governments were putting out a lot of information, and saw the importance of understanding the different types of messaging they might use, and generating insights that might be useful for guiding that. I also saw the importance of enabling governments to understand how different groups were responding to their messages, and whether they were reacting in different ways. I wondered, what could a social science researcher do to help?

And what can other people do to help? 

The survey is still largely focused on Australia, therefore we need help collecting more data from different groups and different countries! Another thing we need help with is disseminating our results in publications. We are looking for people who can help write up articles, collect and analyse data. If you would like to get involved, you can join here.

That’s great, it’s certainly been a time for us all to help out and learn new things along the way. What is the top thing you have learnt during lockdown?

I have learned the self-discipline to get up early in the morning and surf!

Rather jealous of surfing! If you could give your pre-lockdown self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t assume that this is only going to last a few months! Pace yourself!

That is some sound advice, and one I think a lot of people can relate to right now. What do you think we as societies should be focussing on right now?

I am very interested in the area of effective altruism (effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that advocates using evidence and reasoning to determine the most effective ways to benefit others. You can find more about effective altruism here) and quite persuaded by a lot of their key ideas around which causes are particularly important to focus on. See here for more causes you could also get involved in.

About Dr Peter Slattery:

For more information about Peter’s background, you can view his Linkedin profile and connect here.

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