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Image showing Susan Michie leaning against the podium, and the lecture details are written alongside

We were delighted to welcome Professor Susan Michie, an alumna of Experimental Psychology, to deliver our department's annual Anne Treisman Lecture. In the lecture, Behaviour and the COVID pandemic: Science matters, Professor Michie discussed how human behaviour is at the heart of pandemic transmission and at the heart of its suppression. She outlined how, throughout the COVID pandemic, UK psychologists have drawn on their theories, methods and evidence to provide advice to policy makers. The fact that the translation of this advice into policies has not always been direct or transparent raises questions not only about the nature of the science/policy relationship, but also what lessons have been learned.

Professor Michie said,

Working as part of multidisciplinary teams, psychologists were at the forefront of providing scientific advice about human behaviour in relation to COVID-19. The Government’s behavioural science advisory committee produced more than 30 detailed, evidence-based reports addressing questions posed by Government, published on the Gov.UK website. Little of the advice appeared to find its way into policy or practice, although establishing this is not possible as there was no formal monitoring or evaluation of the provision of scientific advice. A model of closer working between scientists and policy makers is likely to make for more effective translation of evidence, rather than the one-way linear process in place during COVID-19. I hope the question of the translation of scientific advice will receive thorough attention at the forthcoming UK Public Inquiry.

A lively Q&A, chaired by Professor Charles Vincent, wrapped up a highly enjoyable and thought-provoking talk.   

View the slides



Susan Michie, FMedSci, FAcSS, FBA is Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London.

Professor Michie’s research focuses on human behaviour change in relation to health and the environment: how to understand it theoretically and apply theory and evidence to intervention and policy development, evaluation and implementation. Her research, collaborating with disciplines such as information science, environmental science, computer science and medicine, covers population, organisational and individual level interventions. Examples include the Human Behaviour-Change Project and Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health. She is an investigator on15 research projects, including three addressing behaviour and the COVID-19 pandemic. She has published >550 journal articles and several books, including the Behaviour Change Wheel: A Guide to Designing Interventions.

She serves as an expert advisor on the UK’s COVID-19 Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behavioural Science (part of SAGE), the Lancet’s COVID-19 Commission and a member of the UK’s Independent SAGE. She serves on WHO’s Behavioural Insights and Sciences Technical Advisory Group, is Chair of the UK Food Standard Agency’s Advisory Committee for Social Sciences, is part of NIHR’s Behavioural Science Policy Research Unit, led UCL’s membership of NIHR’s School of Public Health Research and chaired the Academy of Social Science’s ‘Health of People’ project.