Lang researchers among U of G COVID-19 research funding recipients | Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics

Lang researchers among U of G COVID-19 research funding recipients

Posted on Monday, May 25th, 2020

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The University of Guelph has awarded nearly $700,000 to U of G researchers for projects designed to support the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impact. Each project received up to $10,000 from the Research Development and Catalyst Fund.

Among the funded projects are six research projects by Lang faculty, with matching support from the Office of Research.

The Lang research projects include:

Investigation of consumer information processing and stockpiling under the COVID-19 pandemic

Assistant Professor Yuanfang Lin and Associate Professor Tirtha Dhar from the Department of Management received funding to investigate consumer information processing and stockpiling under the COVID-19 pandemic. The research project will examine how consumers process COVID-19 related information and its impact on their shopping behaviours.

Their research findings will generate policy recommendations on communication strategies to combat misinformation and economic plans to ensure production, distribution, and supply chain functioning as potential countermeasures in the future.

“The information controversy regarding COVID-19 and the wide-spread of consumer stockpiling behaviour are two highly prominent and related social issues under the pandemic,” said Lin. “We cannot expect to use findings from existing literature to explain the conflicting view on almost every aspect of COVID-19 related information and its impact on consumers’ shopping behaviour. The funding will support my research team’s primary data collection through an online survey, which is specifically designed to investigate how consumers acquire, process, and exchange information and the associated impacts on their shopping and stocking behaviour during the pandemic.”


Job Loss effects of COVID-19: Who Has Been the Most Affected?

Associate Professor Miana Plesca and Professor Louise Grogan received funding for their research project that aims to document which workers are most affected by the structural changes brought by COVID-19 to the economy. Their main focus is on precarious worker groups defined by gender and age.

Through their research, they look to answer questions including: are women disproportionately affected by job changes due to COVID-19? Are youth disproportionately affected? What are the short- and long-term consequences of loss in wages and hours for women and youth? Do COVID-19 policies target the most at-risk groups? What other policies would mitigate these consequences?

“This funding allows us to put together a team of faculty and students from Economics and Computer Science to work on analyzing data and create a platform to disseminate findings,” said Plesca. “We see the project developing in three stages: (1) an immediate analysis of existing data; (2) analysis of data becoming available over the summer; and (3) a fall proposal for a project to analyze long-term effects of COVID-19 disruptions on the workforce and the economy.”


The Effect of Perceived Risk on Consumers’ Response

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to a global crisis with its potential effect on the hospitality industry being even more severe than previous crises. It has generated deep fear and confusion in a very emotional way for most consumers and has affected consumer behaviour. Hwan-Suk (Chris) Choi, professor and the interim director of Lang’s School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management, received funding for a research project that looks at developing theoretical justification and provide empirical evidence for the importance of perceived risk in multiple service environments.

Due to the pandemic, perceived risk has resulted in consumers not feeling comfortable eating inside restaurant dining areas, staying at paid accommodations, or taking air travel, even after restrictions have eased. This research will provide information to help restauranteurs, hoteliers, and airline operators create and maintain a safe service environment for customers and provide proper safety communication messages to better educate their customers and achieve successful behavioural changes when using these services.


How Has COVID-19 Impacted Sustainability Initiatives of Restaurants? A Case Study Analysis

In recent times, many Canadian restaurants have been modifying their operations to be more environmentally and socially sustainable. This has taken the form of many initiatives, including the change to more environmentally sustainable and ethical food supplies, the reduction of single-use plastics, and the provision of living wages. As a result of COVID-19, many restaurants are in “survival mode”, trying to remain open with financial issues being at the forefront of their minds and anecdotal evidence suggests that many have forgone sustainability initiatives to survive.

Associate Professor Simon Somogyi and Associate Professor Bruce McAdams will use this funding to explore and understand the impact of the pandemic on restaurant operations in terms of how it has impacted their sustainability initiatives to date, but also document the way their sustainability initiatives will evolve over the coming months.

“This funding will allow us to hire a graduate research assistant who will interview restaurant owners and operators on how COVID-19 has impacted their sustainability measures,” said Somogyi. “While doing this, they can document how their business strategy and sustainability initiatives change over the coming months.”


COVID-19 and Virtual Grocery Shopping: The Impact on Canadian Female Consumers

Virtual grocery shopping is a form of grocery shopping where purchases are made via a food retailer’s web portal or mobile application with delivery at the consumer’s home or store pickup. Prior research suggests that female consumers are more likely to pick up groceries at stores than males, which puts them at more risk of contracting the virus.

Associate Professor WooMi Jo and Associate Professor Simon Somogyi received funding for their research project that seeks to investigate female shoppers’ attitudes and behaviours towards adopting virtual grocery shopping as a mitigation strategy in the COVID-19 risk era.


Impacts on Perceived Country Image and Perceived Risks during the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canada Tourism

Even when restrictions are eased, the fear of spreading the virus will continue to impact travel in the longer term. The uncertainty of travel safety and security within Canada can be reviewed by tourists’ perceived risk. Associate Professor WooMi Jo and Professor Marion Joppe received funding for their research project to investigate the country image of Canada during the COVID-19 outbreak and perceived risks associated with the pandemic in travelling within Canada by domestic residents and from its biggest international market, U.S. residents.

The findings of their study will help guide the tourism sector for important protocols in providing safe and secure services, which will mitigate the fear of travelling in the short-term. The correct messaging strategies that address the negative and enforce the positive perceptions will assist Canada tourism to recover sooner and ensure that Canada is better prepared to minimize the impacts of potential COVID-19 waves.

“This funding allows us to hire a PhD student for the study, which supports our research and provides a research opportunity for them,” said Jo. “We hope the findings can be shared with Destination Canada, and provincial and regional destination marketing organizations for future collaboration in research.”


More information about the U of G COVID-19 research funding can be found in their announcement.

Lang faculty have been heavily engaged in dialogue during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing insights and analyses in response to this global pandemic. Discover research and insights from Lang.

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