July 2022 CIC Webinar Recap

Editor's note:

Guest Post: Kaylen Ko

The COVID Information Commons (CIC) webinar took place on July 15th, 2022. In this forum, leading COVID-19 scientists presented their current research on the global pandemic. 

Event moderators included Florence Hudson, Executive Director of the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub at Columbia University and COVID Information Commons Principal Investigator (PI), and Lauren Close, Operations & Communications Manager. 

The researchers presented a range of topics, each touching on broader themes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two presentations spoke to the pandemic’s impact on social and behavioral sciences and the third offered new research tools and resources related to the study of COVID-19. Two projects were funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and one was funded through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 



The webinar began with a presentation from Alysha Ramirez Hall (Arizona State University) and Michael Medina (University of California, Davis). Drs. Hall and Medina discussed their research on college students’ COVID-19 coping mechanisms, Emerging Adults’ Daily Well-Being Social Experiences, and Academic Persistence in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Their research collected data from over three hundred STEM college students pre- and post-pandemic. Three key points emerged from their findings. First, students experienced significant changes to their social support systems mid-pandemic. The biggest change was that students returned to living back home. On average, about 7.4% of students move back home during their college years. However, during the pandemic, that number increased to 46.2% of students. The research discovered that living at home could have dual effects on students. Specifically, while they were receiving positive messages about their culture from family members, they were also feeling academic pressure, increased stereotype threats, and experiencing racial barriers to their future careers. 

Second, college students saw a significant shift in media representations of race during the summer of 2020. For Asian American and Caucasian students, negative media portrayals of their race were particularly profound and impactful . 

Finally, academic experiences and preferences shifted due to a lack of educator and peer support in learning. Students of color also felt less of a sense of belonging at school belonging. The breadth and scope of the cultural and social impacts the pandemic has had on these students’ sense of autonomy requires additional study. 

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


Next, we heard from Joshua Hartshorne (Boston College). Dr. Hartshorne presented his research on childhood development, A ‘Citizen Science’ approach to COVID-19 social distancing effects on children’s language development

Dr. Hartshorne’s work considered parenting practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving particular consideration to the rise in childrens’ screen time and changes in language development. His research showed that parents, faced with new economic and professional challenges as a result of the pandemic, often relied on screen time as a substitute for more comprehensive child care services. Joshua’s research addressed two hypotheses: one, screen time use is a cultural activity with cultural solutions, and two, screen time use addresses a resource problem with resource solutions. Both hypotheses were aligned to predictors of poor developmental outcomes such as recreational screen time, childhood obesity, and fewer words heard (the “word gap”). 

In conclusion, screen time variability, child care resources, and parental stress were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemic-era public policies which attempt to discourage parents from giving children access to streaming services, therefore, may not be effective. In this instance, it is obvious that parenting practices regarding screen time were determined primarily by parents’ immediate need for childcare. This immediate need overrode preexisting concern about the long term effects of screen time on children’s cognitive and behavioral development. 

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

The webinar ended with a presentation from Michelle Krzyzanowski (Research Triangle Institute), who shared information about the research tools for COVID-19 studies in her presentation on the NIH grant, Genomic Resource Grant for the PhenX Toolkit - expansion and sustainability.

Dr. Krzyzanowski’s presentation highlighted the various research tools available to COVID-19 scholars via the PhenX Toolkit (consensus measures for Phenotypes and eXposures), a National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) funded project that has been in development since 2007. The PhenX Toolkit is a catalog of recommended measurement protocols, survey instruments, and policies for data collection which can be used by COVID-19 researchers. As the protocols, and subsequently the library, grew in size, the COVID-19 Research Collection was developed to categorize the various protocols in key topic areas into prioritized collections. These collections included behaviors and risks, information resources, socioeconomic protocols, etc. The final tool presented was the COVID-19 Variable Compare Tool. The tool allows for comparisons of variables by keyword search, side-by-side comparisons and comparing questionnaires. Dr. Krzyzanowski noted that the PhenX Toolkit is developed by the scientific community through a consensus based process as a web-based resource that is public and fully open access. 

A video of Michelle’s session can be found on the CIC website.


Following the presentations, Florence Hudson, Lauren Close, and REAL volunteer Kaylen Ko 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. education policy and research tools.

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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August 09, 2022