Citizen Shield - technological, behavioural and societal solutions for protective actions to tackle pandemics

Due to global connectivity, virus infection diseases and related pandemics are among the most pronounced safety risks of the modern open society

. Typical epidemics repeat themselves in a cyclic but unpredictable fashion, with initial exponential growth. Successfully tackling such crises depends only partly on heavy regulations: the availability of safe, acceptable and high-quality protective equipment as well as governmental readiness to influence citizens' uptake of protective behaviours are key elements in pandemic readiness. Hence, the Citizen Shield project aims to produce scientific knowledge to protect individuals and society against epidemics of airborne infections by a combination of behavioural and technological solutions.

The key parts of the project are:

I) evaluation and upgrading of existing technical mask and other shield concepts, taking into account their social acceptance

II) understanding motivation and behavioural influences of protective behaviours ( distancing, mask-wearing)

III) creating new interdisciplinary shield concepts based on that understanding

IV) forming effective ways for official communication and training that will take into account behavioural, social and systems science evidence.

The outputs of this project include high-quality affordable and acceptable protective solutions and behavioural concepts, which together also solve more common and continuously occurring similar challenges. Thus, everyday protection means become simply convertible to a special situation and escalation can be avoided. The project evaluates the efficiency and usability of existing technological personal protection methods and seeks ways to upgrade their performance, simultaneously clarifying social and medical acceptance.

As tackling pandemics and other outbreaks depends on governmental measures to successfully change people’s behaviour, the project comprehensively studies drivers of behaviour and the most promising techniques to change protective behaviours. Behaviour change interventions that are planned based on careful analysis of the target behaviours and understanding of the context are likely to be most effective. The project also evaluates the feasibility of imparting social and behavioural science tools and concepts to strengthen the government’s capacity to take up effective action to influence citizen’s behaviour, where heavy regulations are not possible.

Funding: Academy of Finland, 2020-2023

Principal Investigators:
Professor Ari Harlin (VTT)
Associate professor Nelli Hankonen (UH)

Project team members at the University of Helsinki:
Project planner Kaisa Saurio (UH)
Doctoral student Matti Heino (UH)
Research Assistant BSocSc Meri Pietilä (UH)
MSocSc Minttu Palsola (UH)

We collaborate with a wide range of practical stakeholders and scientists.

If you are interested in collaboration or findings, please contact us!

Link to project page:


Projektista suomeksi: VTT ja Hel­sin­gin yliopisto ke­hit­tä­vät help­po­käyt­töi­siä suo­jaus­kei­no­ja pan­de­mioi­den va­ral­le ja ar­keen

Projektin suomenkieliset verkkosivut: