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Epidemics and Social Science: a Holistic Approach

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As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact our societies in multiple ways, this two-week online summer course trains social scientists in the social aspects of epidemic preparedness and responses from global and local perspectives, to enable them to develop research and expertise for developing relevant studies during or after outbreaks on various continents. This “epidemic social science” is a holistic engagement with social, cultural, economic and political factors as they affect, and are affected by outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics, with a focus on how people (communities, responders, and others) experience, engage and negotiate these circumstances. The course is build using the Special-Soc Epidemics curriculum tool developed by the European project Sonar-Global project. The aim of this project is to build a sustainable international network to strengthen the active participation of the social sciences in the prevention and response to infectious threats.

  • Programme at a glance
    Mode of instruction: Online (2 weeks)
    Academic dates: Monday 21 June - Friday 2 July 2021
    Academic fees: €750 read more about what is included.
    Credits: 4 European Credits. Read more about credits and credit transfer.  
    Early admission deadline: 1 February 2021. Admissions will be processed throughout the year on a rolling basis. 
    Final admission deadline: 1 June 2021
    Who is this programme for?                                                                                                                                                       For current university students (advanced Bachelors, Masters, Postgraduate) and Professionals in the social and behavioural sciences and medicine with an interest infectious threats, international development, and health.
  • Programme description

    The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our societies in multiple ways.  While we witness the rapid development in biomedicine, it is undeniable that in-depth understanding of societies, culture, practices within various contexts of the epidemic is vital to its prevention and control. In today’s pandemic response, there is an increase in funding for social science research. This increase builds on from years of work on various epidemics from Ebola and cholera, to HIV/AIDS. Still, the evidence-based for emergency decision making ,with social science knowledge and data remains limited in the COVID-19 response at the local, national and international levels. Why is this so? And how then can social science knowledge and understanding be effectively integrated in preparedness, response and recovery? 

    This course will address the following main themes relevant to epidemic social science research, covering four areas:

    1. The sociocultural determinants of emergence and transmission, including the overall frame of outbreak response; humans, animals and microbes; emergence and One Health; health facilities: hotspots and care centers; and risk, inequalities and prevention.
    2. The social construction of care, including perceptions about knowledge and disease interpretation; epidemic narratives and communication; experiences of patients and health services; and the meaning and management of death and rituals.
    3. Biosecurity, public health measures and social links, including biosecurity, public health measures, control and trust; trust and collective engagement with vaccination; preparation, response and recovery.
    4. Method and ethics for research on the epidemic crisis, including the contribution of social sciences and governance of outbreak response, and methodology and ethics of social science investigation on health in an epidemic crisis.

    Expert lectures and case studies are mixed with live discussion sessions to articulate and discuss these notions in the context of various infectious disease threats  such as COVID-19, Ebola, MERS, SARS, TB, measles, antimicrobial resistance, HIV/AIDS,  and on the socioeconomic and cultural contexts of Asia, Europe and Africa. The course includes guest lectures by well known experts from the field, including Sharon Abramovitz (consultant), Simone Carter (UNICEF); Tamara Giles-Vernick (Institute Pasteur), Joy Caminade (WHO consultant), and Nina Gobat, (WHO, Oxford).

  • Academic directors

    Dr. Daniel (Danny) de Vries is Associate Professor in the Anthropology of Health at the University of Amsterdam and Director of the Master Medical Anthropology and Sociology (MAS). He has over 20 years of experience in applied research, including emergency preparedness for natural disasters (flood mitigation) and infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, Lyme Disease/Tick borne encephalitis, norovirus). His research has been on differences in landscape perception, the voluntariness of floodplain mitigation projects, temporal vulnerability and surprise ecologies, community health resources and engagement and the impact of COVID19 on socially vulnerable populations ( He has worked as monitoring and evaluation professional for large global health projects, such as the USAID Capacity Project focused on strengthening of human resources for health, as well as projects on human rights to health, such as Bridging the Gaps. Currently, Dr. de Vries is co-leader on the capacity building work package on anti-microbial resistance for the European funded Sonar-Global project, a social sciences network for infectious threats and antimicrobial resistance. He is also principal investigator or the PrEPArE Consortium (Public Health Emergency Preparedness Assessments for Europe), funded by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

    Aphaluck Bhatiasevi is a PhD candidate on Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. Her research looks into the visibility and invisibility of Melioidosis, a neglected disease which is internationally classified as a biological weapon. Aphaluck is on sabbatical leave from World Health Organization, where she has worked in multiple countries over 15 years. Aphaluck has worked in various social and behavioural science disciplines including applied anthropology, risk communication, community engagement, in responding to infectious disease outbreaks including Ebola, Zika, Cholera, MERS Coronavirus, Yellow Fever and crises caused by natural disasters.  Aphaluck’s work also involves capacity building support to WHO Member States within the International Health Regulations Framework. Prior to joining WHO, Aphaluck worked in Vietnam and Indonesia on animal health with the Food and Agriculture Organization and in Thailand as a health journalist. 

  • Explore our community

    Want to get to know more about studying in Amsterdam? Follow us on social media and join our summer community. Get a feel for our summer school vibe and our academic and social community, and learn about studying with us through the eyes of past summer school students. 

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    Interested in hearing more about Danny and Aphaluck's work? In this interview, they reflect on the current global Covid-19 pandemic and the role of the social sciences in helping to treat the spread of infectious threats. 

Facts & Figures
Mode Online
Credits 4 ECTS, 2 weeks
Language of instruction English
Starts in June