A study of the value of information during disease pandemics

Student Investigator:
Geetha Jeyapragasan
School of Interdisciplinary Science
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Principal Investigator:
Niko Yiannakoulias
School of Earth, Environment and Society
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
(905) 525-9140 ext. 20117

Purpose of the study:
Our study aims to explore how information affects decision making processes in the context of pandemics. Our research will help us learn what types of information people find most valuable when faced with uncertain pandemic decision scenarios – improving risk communication messaging health agencies or in the media and members of the public.

You are invited to take part in this study on pandemic decision making and public health risk communication. We want to improve the current approaches to communicating pandemic information, ensuring information provided to the public is not only factual, but valuable by reducing uncertainties and help determine what they should do. We hope this research reduces the stress and anxieties surrounding decision-making in public health crises. I am doing this research for my thesis as part of my Bachelor's degree at McMaster University.

Procedures involved in the research:
You will be asked to provide some basic demographic information such as age, education and income level. You will then be asked directed to the game, where you will read the fictional scenario and a quick character background. After this, you will be presented with scenarios within the game and be asked to make decisions for your character. You will have the opportunity to purchase information for game points in each decision to potentially reduce uncertainty. Your goal is to make decisions you believe would be in the best interest of your character, taking into consideration all aspects of their wellbeing.

Your participation in this study is expected to require about 10 to 20 minutes of your time. You can participate online using any mobile device with an internet connection. You may choose to quit the game at any point by leaving the site.

Are there any risks to doing this study?
The risks involved in participating in this study are minimal. You may feel uncomfortable with making certain decisions regarding on interpersonal relationships, housing, and health . You may choose to skip certain decisions, should you feel discomfort, and you may exit the study at any time.

Participation in this study is completely anonymous. Your gameplay decisions will be stored on a private digital database, encrypted during transport, and requires two-step verification. Your individual responses will not be identifiable at any point.

Any information you submit for this study will be confidential. We will not be collecting your name or any information that would allow for you to be identified in our game. No one will know whether you participated in this study unless you choose to tell them.

All responses are provided online, and if you choose to provide your email address, it will be stored on a secured private server. Survey responses will be stored in a separate password-protected database, which requires two-step verification. Survey responses are anonymous by storing the optionally provided email address and the survey responses in separate places, with the email being stored on a private server maintained by the Principal Investigator, Dr. Yiannakoulias. The data will be stored until April 9, 2021.

Participation and withdrawal:
Your participation in this study is voluntary. If you consent to participating, you can stop (withdraw consent) from the game for whatever reason, even after you consent to participating or part-way through the game.

Exiting the game and withdrawing from the study while in the middle of completing it has no consequences to you, and the data you entered up until that point will be destroyed. We encourage you to answer all questions and play the entire game if possible. Each decision has been carefully selected and deemed important for our understanding of pandemic decision making, so we encourage full completion.

How can I obtain information about the study's results?
I expect to have this study completed by approximately April 2021. If you would like a brief summary of the results, please visit this site https://decisiongame.ca/pandemic for the main findings.

Questions about the study:
If you have questions or need more information about the study itself, please email me at:


This study has been reviewed by the McMaster University Research Ethics Board and received ethics clearance. If you have concerns or questions about your rights as a participant or about the way the study is conducted, please contact:

McMaster Research Ethics Secretariat
Telephone: (905) 525-9140 ext. 23142
C/o Research Office for Administrative Development and Support
E-mail: ethicsoffice@mcmaster.ca


  • I have read the information presented in the information letter about a study being conducted by Geetha Jeyapragasan and Dr. Niko Yiannakoulias of McMaster University.
  • I have had the opportunity to ask questions about my involvement in this study and to receive additional details I requested
  • I understand that if I agree to participate in this study, I may withdraw from the study at any time, but will not be able to withdraw once I have completed and submitted the game due to anonymity.
  • I am aged 18 years or older.
  • I agree to participate in the study.