York researchers receive $1.1 million in COVID-19 research funding


TORONTO, March 6, 2020 (UPDATED) – Three York University researchers will receive more than $1.1 million in COVID-19 rapid research funding over two years to explore issues of trust, stigmatization and social perceptions of risk, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced today.

The results from these Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies research projects could affect the response to and management of COVID-19 now and similar outbreaks of disease in the future. The funding for the York projects will come from both the CIHR and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Assistant Professor Aaida Mamuji, coordinator of the Disaster and Emergency Management (DEM) Program at York, will receive $499,121 from CIHR to examine how Chinese diaspora communities in globalized urban centres are coping with COVID-19. Assistant Professor Eric Kennedy of the DEM program will receive $428,816 from SSHRC to track how Canadians understand and perceive the outbreak, while Assistant Professor of Sociology Cary Wu will receive $176,256 from CIHR to study issues of trust and how it hampers prevention and control measures.

“York University is delighted to learn of CIHR’s support for three timely projects from the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies,” said Interim Vice-President Research & Innovation Rui Wang. “This exemplifies York’s leadership in public health response to COVID-19 and its impact. With this funding, York will provide essential insights in the rapid research response to contribute to the global effort to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.”

As the frequency of disease outbreaks increases in a connected world with rapid urbanization, there is a need to understand how public fears, stigmatization and attitudes, along with misinformation, affects public health efforts.

“LA&PS has always been about producing research that has real and immediate impact in the world, and we are incredibly proud of the work of our DEM and sociology researchers in their respective fields – especially as it concerns public issues as timely as the recent COVID-19 outbreak,” said the Dean of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies J.J. McMurtry.

More about the projects:

Mamuji’s project aims to understand the consequences of COVID-19 as experienced by Chinese communities in Toronto and Nairobi, including the social impacts of discrimination and Sinophobia on personal well-being and livelihoods. Her team, which includes Associate Professor Jack Rozdilsky of the DEM program, plans to work with emergency management professionals in both locations to develop a culturally specific public education campaign and knowledge-sharing events to counter misinformation, disinformation, stigma and fear, and to promote community cohesion.

Kennedy’s project, which will include Associate Professor Claudia Chaufan of York’s Faculty of Health and Associate Professor Kieran O’Doherty of the University of Guelph, will mount a large-scale, two-year coast-to-coast survey to document how Canadians understand the outbreak. It will explore who Canadians trust for information on COVID-19, how they’re adapting their behaviours, and how their perceptions of risk changes throughout the next couple of years.

Cary’s research will bring frontline researchers from China together with experts in trust and public health in Canada and Sweden to explore people’s trust in government, health agencies, and in other people and groups during a time of crisis. He will look at how their level of trust shapes public responses to COVID-19, such as compliance with control policies and methods of prevention, but also, how disease outbreaks affect those levels of trust and can lead to a rise in xenophobia.


York University champions new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Our students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Meaningful and sometimes unexpected careers result from cross-disciplinary programming, innovative course design and diverse experiential learning opportunities. York students and graduates push limits, achieve goals and find solutions to the world’s most pressing social challenges, empowered by a strong community that opens minds. York U is an internationally recognized research university – our 11 faculties and 25 research centres have partnerships with 200+ leading universities worldwide. Located in Toronto, York is the third largest university in Canada, with a strong community of 53,000 students, 7,000 faculty and administrative staff, and more than 300,000 alumni. York U's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education.

Media Contact:

Sandra McLean, York University Media Relations, 416-736-2100 ext. 2097 or 416-272-6317, sandramc@yorku.ca