Securing Cities Against Global Pandemics (2016-2019)

Principal investigator

Dr Elisa Pieri


Simon Fellowship Award

About the research

Image of a microscopic virus to illustrate a pandemic

The risk of new global pandemics has become a pressing concern in the West. The likelihood and impact of future pandemics are discussed amongst scientists working in various medical fields – from immunology to virology, epidemiology and veterinary research. Pandemic threat and the planning towards its mitigation feature increasingly in policy discourse and strategy at various levels, and most nations have drafted plans to mitigate pandemic risk. Social and ethical tensions are likely to arise in connection to pandemic response and, importantly, already arise in relation to current pre-pandemic planning.

Drawing on sociological knowledge, alongside medical and other knowledges already dominant in pandemic planning, can help us reveal the values inbuilt in current preparedness strategies. It can help us identify the impacts of the mitigation planning measure proposed, and generate a better understanding of the (often unintended) social consequences of measures adopted during previous pandemics.

This project pursues a range of interconnected themes: Framing of pandemic risk in media and policy discourse, protocols and best practices circulated by international organisations, smarting up cities and the lessons from other cities (e.g. Singapore and Hong Kong), the role of technology in securitising Western cities against pandemics today and the role of vaccine in the securitisation of Western cities.

The research is based on mixed method: analysis of media archives, desk based research (review of international and national policy guidelines, measures and technologies deployed during previous and current pandemics) site visits, semi-structured and elite interviews with experts, policy advisors and practitioners, and ethnography.

Residencies, research visits and placements

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Stockholm, Sweden 

Hosted by Country Preparedness Support, Public Health Capacity and Communication Section. Forthcoming (Sept -Oct 2018, two weeks). See the ECDC website.

Brocher Foundation, Geneva, Switzerland

The foundation hosts scientists and experts in the ethical, legal and social implications of the development of medical research and biotechnologies. Forthcoming  (2019, one month). See the Brocher Foundation website.


E Pieri (forthcoming) ‘Pandemic Outbreak!’ Public event at John Rylands Library, Manchester city centre, Friday 9 November 2018. I am organising and running this public engagement event as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences.

E Pieri (forthcoming) ‘Emergency planning for pandemic preparedness’ Royal Geographical Society International Conference in collaboration with Institute of British Geographers, Cardiff, 28-31 Aug 2018.

E Pieri (forthcoming) ‘Participatory crisis governance and emergency planning for pandemic preparedness’ Stream on Disasters and Participation: inventive/disruptive encounters, European Association for the Study of Science and Technology 2018 Conference, Lancaster, 25-28 July 2018.

E Pieri (accepted/in press) ‘Media framing and the threat of global pandemics: the Ebola crisis in UK media and policy response’ Sociological Research Online.

E Pieri ‘Securing Cities Against Global Pandemics’ on the occasion of the Dean’s visit to Sociology, The University of Manchester, 9 May 2018.

E Pieri ‘Configuring Pandemic Threat’ Global Development Institute, WIP Series, The University of Manchester, 2 Mar 2018.

Pieri, E ‘Pandemics’, Public Event, ESRC Festival of Social Science, John Rylands Library, Manchester, 10 Nov 2017. Speaker and organiser of this event.

Pieri, E ‘Pandemic risk and the mobilisation of sociological knowledge’ paper given at Brokerage ASSET Event on the ‘Mobilisation and mutual learning at local, national and international level on Science-in-Society related issues in epidemics and pandemics’, Rome 30-31 Oct 2017. Video | Programme

Pieri, E. Media interview on the topic of pandemics. This was a video interview conducted in English ahead of conference above and displayed in a loop during the 2-day brokerage event. It was shot and edited by Zadig Srl, the Italian editorial and publishing company covering medicine, nature, the environment, Rome 30 Oct 2017.

Pieri, E ‘Pandemic Risk, Preparedness and the role of Sociological Knowledge’, paper given at Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty stream, European Sociological Association (Biennial) International Conference Athens 31 Aug- 2 Sept 2017.

Pieri, E ‘Securing cities against global pandemics’ paper given at ASSET SS, National Centre for Disease Control and Health Promotion, Rome, Italy, 30 May-1 June 2017.

Pieri, E ‘Western Cities and Media Framing of Pandemic Risk: Ebola in UK Media and Policy Response’, paper given at 'Epidemics in a Globalised World: Multidisciplinary Perspectives' international workshop, UCSIA, Antwerp, Belgium, 22-24 March 2017.

Pieri, E ‘The Journey: Western narratives of pandemic outbreak’ talk given at Manchester Migration Lab launch workshop, University of Manchester, 5 Dec 2016.

Pieri, E ‘Pandemic Threats and the West’, paper given at University of Sheffield, 16 Nov 2016.

Pieri, E ‘Western cities and the framing of pandemic risk’, paper given at the stream on 'Biorisk Intelligence: Scenarios, Visual Knowledge and new Mechanisms of Surveillance', Biennial Conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST), held jointly with the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), Barcelona 31 Aug-3 Sept 2016.

Pieri, E ‘Cities, Media and the Risk of Global Pandemics’, paper given at the British Sociological Association Annual Conference, Birmingham 6-8 April 2016.