Covid-19 response

University volunteers build database to share Covid-19 reviews

Since lockdown began, University staff, students and alumni have built a database of reviews concerning Covid-19.

Shows screen of coronavirus stats

Health researchers and information specialists came together shortly after the UK lockdown was announced to establish a network of volunteers. This network includes staff, students and alumni, as well as friends and associates of the University.

Originally the team worked to write rapid evidence reviews in response to questions from policymakers, healthcare professionals and clinicians under pressure to make difficult decisions in an increasingly uncertain environment. This involved intense and fast responses from the team having to search for all the relevant studies to collect high quality evidence. Due to the nature of the pandemic, this information was often needed at very short notice, meaning that instead of taking months, teams of students worked to provide this service as quickly as possible. Now the urgency for this information has subsided, the teams are reverting to more in-depth research.

Rima Nundy, who is studying a Masters in Public Health, explains why she chose to volunteer for the project: “UNCOVER provided me an opportunity to be a part of a team which felt like a close-knit community supporting one another to produce commendable work in very challenging settings. For a lot of us who were away from our families, it provided a sense of purpose and focus along with the satisfaction of working with some of the best minds at the University. Being a student of a Masters in Public Health, it also provided the prospect of utilising learnings from my course first hand. Moreover, the team has been very open and encouraging to students which has led to gainful academic discussions and personally been a very enriching experience overall.”

Alongside this work, the team also set up a searchable database of these reviews and questions they had already worked through to avoid duplication of effort, not only across the UK, but worldwide. UNCOVER is free to use and is updated with new evidence reviews regularly to ensure it’s completely up to date with the latest work being done.

Since the project began, the team have worked for both the Scottish and UK Governments conducting a range of reviews. UNCOVER has also secured funding from Data-Driven Innovation and Wellcome Trust's Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF3) to grow the project further.

Ruth McQuillan, Senior Lecturer in the Usher Institute and one of the Project Leads said: “The best thing about being involved in UNCOVER has been the response from the university community – and the feeling of being part of a community at a time when we were all physically isolated at home. The response to our call for volunteers was really inspiring, and it came from all sections of the university community: students, staff, alumni and retired emeritus staff. I think there has been a really powerful sense of us all working together as a team to use our skills in a positive way to try to make a difference. In a funny way, working remotely using Zoom has helped this sense of teamwork, in that it is a great equalizer: everyone is just a little box on a screen, so in some ways I think it makes us all feel more equal. I hope so, anyway.”

Project organisers believe the database to be the only one of its kind in the world.

Related links

UNCOVER website

The Usher Institute

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