Personal observations on COVID-19 and the conduct and application of biomedical science
journal contributionposted on 02.11.2021, 14:03 by JC Smith, David W Goodhew
We begin by describing our observations of the ways in which the conduct of research has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and go on to comment on the quality of the scientific advice that is provided to UK citizens, and especially to schools. Researchers, like many, have suffered from the effects of the pandemic. Those hardships notwithstanding, we suggest that research into COVID-19 has benefitted from a ‘seed corn’ of discovery science that has provided the basis for routine diagnostic PCR and antibody tests; for structural analyses of the way in which the SARS-CoV-2 virus interacts with cells; for the development of new treatments (and the debunking of ineffective ones); for studies of the genetics of susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2; and for the development of vaccines. The speed of dissemination of research has benefitted from the widespread use of pre-prints, and researchers and funders have become more nimble in their approaches to research and more willing to change their priorities in the face of the pandemic. In our experience, the advice provided to schools on the basis of this research was, however, often published at the last minute and was frequently flawed or inconsistent. This has led to a widening of the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers and it has exacerbated the digital divide and holiday hunger. The consequences will be felt for many years to come and will jeopardize diversity in research and other careers.