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IOE map takes us to the frontier of pandemic research

Written by Anna Blanck and Gunn Benjaminsen

August 24, 2020

Researchers at University College London’s Institute of Education’s (IOE) Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre), the University of York and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have made the task of finding worldwide evidence on Covid-19 a lot less daunting. They have developed a computer programme that maps worldwide evidence on Covid-19. The interactive map gives both the general public and policymakers access to new information. Access to the newest knowledge available on Covid-19  is essential for policymakers when they decide on the next steps in their response to the pandemic. The map is also a tool that can help fight what the UN Secretary-General António Guterres called “the dangerous epidemic of misinformation.”


Quick response to emerging pandemic

The IOE and University of York are not alone in developing Covid-19 maps. What sets their map apart from others is that it collates emerging reports. The map does so by synthesizing evidence-based research.

Professor Thomas responded quickly as the pandemic unfolded. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, his team has been busy sorting information across several themes. These range from health impact and medical developments, to social and economic impact. Transferable experience and technology helped make the map a reality.

“For many years our team has produced evidence reviews for the Department of Health and Social Care, England, so we were aware how vital it would be for policy-makers to have access to the research evidence on Covid-19. Our skills and technology meant we could respond fast to produce and maintain a comprehensive map”, said Professor Thomas.


The map (photo above) is available online


Looking ahead: Including treatment and vaccine research

The number of research projects is increasing rapidly as the pandemic is evolving. Dr Katy Sutcliffe is one of the researchers working on the interactive map. She expects that the volume of evaluations on treatments and vaccines will continue to rise.

“We anticipate that we’ll see increasing numbers of formal evaluations of treatments and vaccines in the coming weeks and months,” she said.

Resources in the map are organised by both general focus and date. This gives users access to all relevant information, and makes it easy to navigate to the most recent developments. It also allows users to follow the trajectory of a focus area for the duration of the pandemic. A chart illustrates what we already know, as well as the gaps that exist in collective Covid-19 knowledge. For example, research into transmission and risk has received more attention than mental health. This information may be useful for researchers to determine the direction of future projects. It also help identify research gaps.


Turning knowledge into policy – and accountability

The advantages of the map are many. By locating and organising evidence-based information, the map may help leaders make informed decisions to fight the outbreak. Policymakers can use this map to support the implementation of effective policies. A greater focus on evidence-based research has the potential to enhance response effectiveness. It is also a source of information for regular citizens: the ones who will hold their governments accountable for the successes and failures of policies during the pandemic.

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