‘The talent and strength of the research base we have in Scotland … what an asset that is.’
A better awareness of our country’s ‘assets’ in scientific research and innovation is important for its own sake. It also helps counter patterns of corporate media and BBC reporting in Scotland on the Coronavirus emergency: (a) recently an over-emphasis on the ‘expertise’ of one retired professor; and too commonly (b) bias by omission in favour of profiling research happening somewhere else.
Scotland’s government and universities acting together, quickly
On 28 April the Scottish Government announced an investment of c.£5 million in 55 ‘rapid studies’ led by Scotland’s universities and research institutes in order to increase understanding of Coronavirus and responses to it. The projects start immediately and will deliver within six months.
The studies include work in the following areas:
- better understand the effects of infection
- develop and test new diagnostics and treatments
- investigate new disease surveillance approaches
- inform interventions to prevent transmission of infection
- support the mental health of frontline health and social care workers
- understand the physical and mental health implications of lockdown measures.
Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland commented on the significance of the new research and on the capability and capacity that has made this national response possible.
“This is an amazing set of research projects which will deliver such an impact in Scotland’s fight against and recovery from COVID-19. The findings from this research will benefit those working on the frontline of the NHS, the lives of our most vulnerable, socially isolated and most affected by the virus, it will also give Scotland the confidence to plan a safe and successful route out of this.”
Sim added: “To get going on such a broad range of research topics this quickly and to deliver them just months from now shows the responsiveness and relevance of university research to our every day lives. I couldn’t be prouder of what it says about the talent and strength of the research base we have in Scotland and what an asset that is.”
For more information on the projects see: https://www.cso.scot.nhs.uk/rapid-research-in-covid-19-programme/. The ‘Rapid Research in COVID-19’ initiative was launched by the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office on 25 March; 139 proposals were received; and successful applicants were chosen by an independent expert panel.
Background – about the Chief Scientist Office (CSO)
The CSO doesn’t have much public profile. As part of the Scottish Government’s Health Directorate, its overall aim is to support and increase the level of high-quality health research conducted in Scotland. It undertakes a broad range of activities: awards grants and fellowships; funds research units; supports all research in NHS Scotland through NRS (NHS Research Scotland); contributes to UK-wide research programmes managed by NETSCC (NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre); encourages industry funded research; and fosters a research culture in NHS Scotland.
The CSO funds on a longer term basis a number of research units in Scotland:
- Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen – focus is on ‘Health Care Assessment’ and ‘Improving Experiences of Care’: also includes the Centre for Healthcare Randomised Trials (CHaRT)
- Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen – focus is on workforce planning, person-centred care, health behaviour and health technology assessment
- Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, Glasgow Caledonian University and University of Stirling – focus includes improving the evidence base for interventions in NMAHP practice and the quality of care these professions deliver
- Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow – focus is on health and wellbeing, and on reducing health inequalities: also funded by the Medical Research Council.
The CSO currently has a group of volunteers (members of the public) who form a Public Engagement Group. Its main role is to provide a lay perspective on the activities of the CSO to ensure that the public view is taken into account in relevant policy and funding issues (see: https://www.cso.scot.nhs.uk/patientspublic/public-involvement-group/).