Insights from Experts is a translational research product with the goal of sharing Penn State’s knowledge and expertise with a broad audience. Each post is designed to be accessible, approachable, and relevant to various stakeholders, including policy-makers, practitioners, research funders, academia, and community members. Initially launched in 2020 and focused primarily on the societal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effort is intended to be connected to the dynamic needs of society, so Insights from Experts will be expanding to cover additional topics within and outside of social science and the pandemic. The effort is an initiative of the Social Science Research Institute and the Center for Health Care and Policy Research. Please check back here for future updates.

Reflections from Living in Sweden during COVID-19

Part 2 of 3: Chronology of events

Author: Lara Fowler, JD


This is the second of a three-part post describing my family’s experience as visiting scholars in Sweden during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this post, I will provide a chronological description of Sweden’s response to COVID-19, including my husband’s personal experience with what was most likely COVID-19. In the final post, I will summarize where Sweden stands now and what can be learned from their experience. Through our personal experiences I hope to shed some light on what is happening in…

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Children in Foster Care

Exploring the issues and potential solutions

Author: Sarah Font, Ph.D.


Foster Care in the United States For the hundreds of thousands of U.S. children in foster care on any given day – including 15,000 Pennsylvanian children—the pandemic imposes novel threats to their health and wellbeing. By the time children enter foster care, they have experienced severe neglect, meaning their parents were consistently unable to meet their physical, emotional, and supervision needs. Some children have also experienced or witnessed physical or sexual violence and many have…

Reflections from Living in Sweden during COVID-19

Part 1 of 3: Understanding the Country’s Dynamics

Author: Lara Fowler, JD


This three-part post will describe my family’s experience as visiting scholars in Sweden during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this first part, to appropriately contextualize our experiences, I will describe the unique dynamics of Sweden including its health care system, its citizens’ trust in government, and population demographics. In the second post, I will provide a chronological description of Sweden’s response to COVID-19, including my husband’s personal experience with what was most likely…

Staying Active During a Global Pandemic

Finding Creative and Safe Ways to Exercise

Author: Dr. Danielle Downs


Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials, medical professionals, researchers, and messaging from the media have encouraged people of all ages to regularly wash hands, practice social distancing, wear a mask when advised, and to get outdoors and engage in physical activity. Outside physical activity during a pandemic? On the surface, this guidance seems counterintuitive to county- and state-wide stay at home orders. In Pennsylvania, a three-phrase matrix is used to…

Privacy in Crisis

Social media for social un-distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic

Author: Sarah Rajtmajer, Ph.D.


As we navigate the COVID-19 crisis and its broad impacts, we are understandably focused on what appear to be our most acute concerns – flatten the curve, save the economy, and develop a vaccine. Daily, we are reminded of the massive toll in lives and livelihoods that the pandemic has exacted worldwide. At the time of writing, more than 10 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, and more than 500,000 lives have been lost. Economically, we are facing the largest global recession in…

The Manufacturing And Sterilization for COVID-19 (MASC) Initiative

How 380 Penn Staters united to help Penn State Health fight COVID-19

Author: Timothy Simpson


For faculty, March represents a big milestone in the academic calendar. It marks the halfway point of the semester and provides a much-needed break to catch one’s breath before the big push to reach the end of the semester. Unfortunately, this spring break will live long in our memories—the Coronavirus started showing up on the shores of the United States, and everything changed. Within the span of two weeks, I went from enjoying time on the beach, relaxing with my family to leading an…

The Impact of COVID-19 on Non-COVID Care and Population Health

Helping providers weather the financial storm

Author: Joel Segel


Much of the attention surrounding COVID-19 has focused on the incidence, the risk factors, and the medical needs of COVID-19 patients as well as the profound economic impact of the pandemic. However, an increasing area of emphasis is the profound effect the pandemic has had on non-COVID related medical care. This has important impacts not only on population health but also the financial health of providers, which can be critical to ensuring ongoing access to care currently and into the future.…

Economic Recovery in the Face of COVID-19

Evaluating the chances of Pennsylvania’s counties

Author: Göktuğ Morçöl, Ph.D.


Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic has affected Pennsylvania’s economy in a way that has no comparison in recent history. The state’s and the nation’s economies are in the worst recession since the Great Depression of 1929 and its effects are likely to be felt for a long time. As of the writing of this post (late June 2020), after months-long mitigation efforts, Pennsylvania’s counties have begun reopening their economies. Now, a key question is, which counties are more likely to recover from…

COVID-19 presents a real-time educational opportunity

Engaging middle and high school students in learning how science happens

Author: Matthew Johnson, Ph.D. / Amber Cesare / Tiffany Lewis / Kathleen Hill, Ph.D.


What do you remember about middle and high school science classes? You may remember spending a few weeks learning about what scientists do (like measuring things and the scientific method). Then, you remember having to memorize things like the phases of mitosis, the chemical symbol of tungsten (W), and the gravitational constant (-9.81 m/s2). You may also remember doing “labs” to verify these concepts. For example, you may have shined light on an elodea plant in an aquarium and observed the…

Restaurants and foodservice businesses during COVID-19

Helping them continue operations

Author: Amit Sharma, Ph.D. / Breffni Noone, Ph.D. / Seoki Lee, Ph.D. / Chandler Yu, Ph.D. / Michael Lin / InHaeng Jung / Donna Quadri-Felliti, Ph.D.


Overview Restaurants and foodservice businesses were some of the first economic activities severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dining in restaurants virtually stopped overnight in cities and states as social distancing guidelines took effect. While many businesses tried to ‘retool’ and adapt to the new realities, many others are continuing to suffer from this unprecedented fallout. Even worse is the uncertainty that has never been at such levels; the uncertainty of whether and when…

State Responses to COVID-19, State Reputations and Long-Term Economic Health

Shaping how individuals rate different job opportunities

Author: Michael Nelson / Chris Witko


After weeks of stay at home orders or less intense forms of social distancing, most states have either completely reopened their economies or are in the process of phased re-openings. Yet, in some states COVID-19 cases are increasing significantly and experts warn that even in states with clear declines further shut-downs may be necessary to avoid large spikes. The public within a state pays close attention to these decisions and leader or laggard states even receive a lot of attention from…

Project ECHO at Penn State College of Medicine

Leveraging technology to connect medical providers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Author: Jennifer L. Kraschnewski, M.D. MPH / Erica Francis, M.S. / Ellie Hogentogler, B.S.


The COVID-19 pandemic and knowledge of this novel disease has pushed our medical communities to identify new ways of learning. When the pandemic hit, medical experts suddenly found themselves facing an illness they knew little about and struggling to rapidly learn about how best to prepare and care for patients. With assistance from Penn State University’s Huck Institute and Social Sciences Research Institute, our Project ECHO at Penn State was rapidly able to mobilize and provide a platform…

Building Community in Medical Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Penn State Experience as told by our students

Author: Mark Stephens, M.D. / Thomas Laux / Daniella Lipnick / Ryan Kenney / Lindsay Buzzelli / Jeffrey Wong, M.D. / Dan Wolpaw, M.D.


Over the past 3 months, nearly 30,000 medical students across the United States have been displaced from their traditional health care roles. With relatively little warning or time for preparation, students, faculty, and administrators scrambled to create platforms, structures, and processes to support learning and find ways to keep students engaged in patient care. Here is a look inside the impact of COVID-19 on medical education through the eyes of four class leaders at the Penn State College…

Bridging Research and Policy During a Pandemic

Adjusting Social Science’s Policy Strategies in Response to COVID-19

Author: Taylor Scott, Ph.D. / Cagla Giray, Ph.D.


When COVID-19 hit, everyone's lives were turned upside down. This is no different for policymakers and those who interact with them, including researchers. This post provides an overview of the Research-to-Policy Collaboration (RPC) and its timely adaptation to improve the use of research evidence in law during the pandemic. What is the Research-to-Policy Collaboration? Research shows that policymakers' use of evidence is facilitated by access to timely and relevant science that corresponds…

Exploring the Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic on Supply Chain Mobility

The Transport and Logistics Industry’s Balancing Act of Keeping People Safe and Goods Moving

Author: Steve Tracey, MBA / Susan Purdum, MBA / Kusumal Ruamsook


By Steve Tracey, Susan Purdum, and Kusumal Ruamsook. The Center for Supply Chain ResearchÒ, Smeal College of Business The COVID-19 pandemic and government efforts to contain the spread of the virus through travel restrictions, social distancing, and shelter-in-place orders have widespread influence on business operations and personal activities. During this time of crisis, supply chains are at the forefront not only in business and government planning, but also in the minds of consumers. The…

Covid-19 And Disruptions In Scientific Field Work

Continuing a multi-city effort to quantify greenhouse gas emissions

Author: Jon M. Nese, Ph.D.


Arguably the most well-publicized disruption to higher education resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic was the widespread conversion to remote learning at colleges and universities in March. Indeed, I taught both of my courses from home for seven weeks after spring break. But in addition, much of the activity at a university such as Penn State involves research by faculty and staff, and those efforts have been disrupted as well – particularly work that requires being in the field. In this video…

Tests, Surgical Masks, Hospital Beds, and Ventilators: Add Big Data to the List of Tools to Fight the Coronavirus That Are in Short Supply

Author: Dennis P. Scanlon, Ph.D., MA / Mark B. Stephens, M.D., MS

Published: In a recent Business Insider article, author Aaron Short, describes the shortages and shortcomings of available data to guide and inform actions by providers, policymakers, and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is precisely the topic my colleague, Dr. Mark Stephens, and I covered in a recent commentary published in the…

Covid-19 And Improvements In Air Quality

Appreciating an unprecedented reduction in emissions

Author: Jon M. Nese, Ph.D.


The price of a gallon of gasoline has declined noticeably over the last few months in concert with a decline in travel during the COVID-19 pandemic and a concurrent decrease in the demand for fuel. With less fuel being burned, the atmosphere has responded with significant short-term improvements in air quality. In this video, which first aired on April 29, 2020 as part of Penn State's long-running weather magazine show Weather World, (seen weekdays on WPSU-TV and the Pennsylvania Cable Network…

Aggressive Parenting during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The complex nature of family violence

Author: Mark Feinberg, Ph.D.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, closed schools and daycare centers, parents working at home, and financial insecurity are increasing stress levels and frictions at home. These conditions lead to the potential for increases in harsh, aggressive parenting and child maltreatment that may go unreported. Against a backdrop of already high levels of family violence in the United States, family service providers should focus on ways to reduce conflict and aggression in all family relationships.…

Unintended mental health consequences of isolation precautions for patients hospitalized with COVID-19

Opportunities to heal with hands

Author: Theodore Demetriou, D.O.


As a physician, I have seen first-hand the mental health toll that the novel coronavirus is playing on patients hospitalized with the disease. Here I present the problem and a potential way to mitigate the damaging effects of isolation on patients’ mental health. There is an old adage: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When there is no cure, that ounce can lead to tons. In a world of antibiotic resistance and diseases with no real cure, isolation precautions are an expected…

Knowledge, perceptions, and preferred information sources related to COVID-19

Public understanding of COVID-19

Author: Robert P. Lennon, M.D., JD / Lauren Jodi Van Scoy, M.D. / Erin L. Miller / Bethany Snyder, MPH


Until there is a vaccine or a cure, information is the most powerful weapon to fight a pandemic infection. Effective communication is therefore recognized as a critical element of successfully managing a pandemic response – for the disease spread to be contained, the public must comply with public health recommendations. The first step in compliance is an understanding of those recommendations, so it is important to understand public knowledge about them. Assessing public pandemic knowledge in…

Managing Uncertainty while Serving the Community

Finding Purpose during the Pandemic – a Centre County example

Author: Ashley Stauffer, M.S., PMP


Currently, there over 1.7 million total unemployment compensation claims in Pennsylvania, an over 1000% increase in claims since early March, and only second to California. Considering that Pennsylvania is leading the nation in unemployment claims, and other states perhaps soon to follow, a sense of unease about the future settles in. The long-term economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have yet to be revealed. The statewide “pause” of non-life-sustaining businesses enacted as…

Educational Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Students with Disabilities in Pennsylvania

Proactively Preparing for Returning Students

Author: Adrienne D. Woods, Ph.D. / Paul L. Morgan, Ph.D. / Yangyang Wang, M.A.


The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting special education service delivery in Pennsylvania and beyond. However, there are steps parents, educators, schools, and policymakers can take to help mitigate the impact. How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting special education service delivery? Pennsylvania is among the 32 states, 3 U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia to have closed its schools for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Pennsylvania alone, these…

Food insecurity in Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 pandemic

Addressing immediate concerns and opportunities for the future

Author: Muzi Na, Ph.D. / Emily Hohman, Ph.D. / Jennifer Savage Williams, Ph.D.


The COVID-19 outbreak has had a detrimental impact to Pennsylvania’s economy. Governor Tom Wolf announced the state shutdown on Mar 19, 2020. In the week ending March 21, 2020, the weekly number of unemployment filings in Pennsylvania reached a record-high of 380,0001 . After a 5-week stay at home order, the state’s total of jobless has surged to over 1.6 million or 24.7% of the workforce2 . The halt of business likely has the biggest impact on less educated, lower-income, and minority workers…

COVID-19: Implications and Opportunities for Substance Use Disorder

Maintaining Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention Services

Author: Glenn Sterner, Ph.D.


As we learn about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our society it is clear that they are often felt most deeply in disadvantaged and marginalized communities. This public health crisis has exposed the systemic weaknesses that serve these populations, illuminating clear directions for addressing them now, and highlighting the need to rethink our future strategies, policies, and services. Especially vulnerable during this crisis are those affected by substance use disorder (SUD). In the…