Building links in cross-disciplinary social science research in Belgium and the Netherlands

25 August 2023


In April 2023, representatives from 13 Dutch and Belgian organisations, both internal and external to the BY-COVID project, gathered in The Hague to discuss how social sciences and humanities (SSH) data can contribute to research on vaccine effectiveness and pandemic preparedness.

A key BY-COVID output is the “baseline use case”, which is creating a standard public health workflow bringing together data across national borders. The first prototype of this workflow is being developed to assess vaccine effectiveness. The workshop aimed to contribute to the prototype by stimulating cross-disciplinary and cross-border exchanges on the integration of socio-economic data in observational studies in vaccine effectiveness research.

The presentations in the first half of the workshop showcased recent progress in BY-COVID, together with related developments in the wider Dutch and Belgian landscape. The presenters highlighted the key challenges involved, which include data governance and sensitive data security. The breakout sessions and roundtable discussions in the second half of the workshop enabled these challenges to be discussed, along with four focussed topics: socioeconomic factors involved in the spread of infectious diseases; new data sources for the COVID-19 Data Portal; data access and mobilisation in the Dutch-Belgian landscape; and multidisciplinarity and reproducibility.

Dutch Belgian SSH meeting

Discussions identified a multitude of socioeconomic factors influencing the spread of infectious diseases, both at the individual and aggregated level. Participants agreed that their effective capture will require overcoming the challenge of linking sensitive SSH data to other data, aggregating SSH data and mobilising data from a complex landscape of stakeholders.

The COVID-19 Data Portal data sources discussion table identified several new data sources that could be mobilised, provided data requirements and technical specifications are met.

The Dutch-Belgian landscape discussion identified a need for further coordination, harmonisation and infrastructure development amongst stakeholders to overcome both internal fragmentation and a lack of connection to national and international partners.

In summary, the workshop was a successful forum to discuss best practices, experiences and challenges surrounding the mobilisation and use of SSH data for infectious disease research and practice, and laid the ground for further developments both within the BY-COVID, as well as in the wider research landscape.

Find out more

Full workshop report on Zenodo

COVID-19 Data Portal