Introduction

What are Areas of Research Interest (ARIs)?

Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) are lists of policy issues or questions. They are a way for an organisation to express interest in seeing more research evidence in certain topics. UK Government departments began producing ARIs in response to the Nurse review of UK Research Councils in 2015. ARIs are publicly available documents outlining what the most important research questions are for each Government department. They were designed to create a more strategic approach to research and to enhance dialogue with academia. Since then, other public and third sector bodies (such as What Works Centres and charities) have also begun producing ARIs.

Why is POST publishing COVID-19 ARIs?

Use of research evidence is an important aspect of parliamentary scrutiny. An inquiry into the effectiveness and influence of the Select Committee system by the House of Commons Liaison Committee made several recommendations on how to improve the use of research evidence in select committees. One recommendation was for select committees and POST to develop and publish ARIs. The Commons Committee Office, in collaboration with POST, held a workshop on developing ARIs for committee staff, and invited interested committees to develop their own. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has meant that priorities shifted quickly, changing the development of ARIs. This is because the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to be a major topic of scrutiny for most select committees during this parliamentary session. There are many questions raised by the COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts that require research evidence to answer. Other bodies, such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Centre for Ageing Better have published responsive ARIs with research questions relating to the COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, POST is trialling Parliamentary ARIs, using COVID-19 as a pilot area.

POST produced this document using data collected through the COVID-19 expert database, and subsequent surveys of parliamentary staff to identify possible long-term scrutiny priorities. This process is described in more detail in the Methods section below.

How can POST’s COVID-19 ARIs be used?

ARIs can serve multiple different purposes. For example, among other things, they could:

  • Create an opportunity for reflection and communication between the research community and UK Parliament.
  • Prompt discussion and coordination between select committees on scrutiny relating to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Elicit research evidence to fill knowledge gaps.
  • Inform the production of evidence reviews in an area.
  • Diversify Parliament’s usual research sources.
  • Inform the strategies and priorities of the research community.

How the ARIs below are responded to depends on two main factors. Firstly, responses will depend on who the reader is; responses are likely to be different from researchers, policy-makers, parliamentary staff, research funders, and so on. Secondly, responses will depend on whether the question highlights an area where:

  • There is evidence (individual research studies or evidence reviews) that already partly or wholly answers the question but those in Parliament are not yet aware of it.
  • There is a wide range of research evidence but it has not yet been synthesised to address the question.
  • There is ongoing research in the area but findings are not yet available.
  • There is insufficient evidence and further research is needed.
  • There is no research currently being conducted.

How will Parliament use the ARIs?

The ARIs are not an exhaustive list of all areas in which Parliament may be interested in research evidence in the future. Parliamentary priorities are driven by elected representatives responding to current affairs. In particular, select committees issue calls for evidence based on their current priorities; ARIs do not replace these calls for evidence. However, these ARIs may be used by parliamentarians and by parliamentary staff in POST, the Libraries and select committee teams to scope and/or inform future work.

How can researchers use the ARIs?

These ARIs are not an invitation to tender for funding or an offer for UK Parliament to collaborate with researchers on projects. However, the following are some suggested ways that researchers could use the ARIs:

  • If you have evidence that partly or wholly answers one of the questions in the ARIs below (including evidence reviews): you can add information about the research and your contact details to the repository of existing and future COVID-19 research relevant to UK Parliament. If this area becomes a topic of scrutiny within Parliament, parliamentary staff may search the repository for relevant research and contacts.
  • If you are, or soon will be, carrying out research (including evidence reviews) in an area relating to any of the questions in the ARIs below but findings are not yet available: you can add information about future research projects, likely publication dates, and contact details to the repository of existing and future COVID-19 research relevant to UK Parliament. If this area becomes a topic of scrutiny within Parliament, parliamentary staff may search the repository for relevant research projects and contacts. Once evidence is available, you can add that evidence to the repository at any time.
  • If you are aware of existing or future research in an area relating to any of the questions in the ARIs below but are not involved in the research personally: you can add information about existing or future research to the repository of existing and future COVID-19 research relevant to UK Parliament.
  • If you are submitting a funding/grant application in a topic area aligned with any of the questions in the ARIs below: Parliament is not able to offer further support or advice to researchers looking to carry out research in these areas. However, the ARIs may be referenced in funding/grant applications as evidence of parliamentary interest in a particular topic.

For further details on how researchers can engage with Parliament, please see the Knowledge Exchange Unit’s research impact hub.

Methods

In March 2020, the Knowledge Exchange Unit in POST launched the COVID-19 outbreak expert database. It invited anyone who wanted to support UK Parliament in its work and had expertise in COVID-19 and/or its impacts to sign up. POST sent an online survey to these experts and over 1,100 responded. A full analysis and synthesis of the survey has been published in 16 reports. The survey included a question about what experts’ most important concerns were relating to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak beyond the next 9 months (long-term concerns). POST worked with PhD researcher David Ralph (University of Southampton) who identified the broad themes of these long-term concerns using machine-learning algorithms. The algorithm clustered responses into 20 themes based on the similarity of their content. These themes have been used to create POST’s COVID-19 broad areas of research interest.

After identifying these 20 themes, POST surveyed select committee staff in the House of Commons and House of Lords to ask them for their views. Responses were received from the staff of 24 different committees. Committee staff were asked to rate the areas for how important research evidence in each of the different themes was likely to be for their committee’s scrutiny of the government response to the COVID-19 outbreak over the next year. They rated each area on a scale of 1–5 (with 5 being the highest importance). Staff from POST, the Libraries and committee teams were then asked to review and contribute potential questions relating to COVID-19 for the ARIs. In total, 33 different parliamentary teams contributed to the final COVID-19 ARIs.

Within each topic there are a number of specific questions. These are a synthesis of the issues raised by experts in their responses along with questions contributed by parliamentary staff.

Please note: Where multiple staff from the same committee completed the survey, their responses were averaged. Committee staff answered from their personal perspectives and did not consult Committee Members, their colleagues or external experts. Their responses are deemed to give an indication of the expected general level of interest at the time of the survey. They are not indications of future work topics or the views of select committees themselves or their Members. As not all committee staff responded to the survey, the actual number of committees who may be interested in the topics below could well be higher, and the actual balance of interest could be different.

List of COVID-19 Areas of Research Interest

Below is a list of the 20 COVID-19 ARIs. Each area lists:

  • How many committee staff gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny.
  • What the average rating was (on a scale of 1–5, with 5 being the highest importance).
  • Some specific research questions suggested by the expert survey and parliamentary staff.

The COVID-19 ARIs are in order of broadest interest and highest deemed importance (calculated by combining the number of committees who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny along with the average rating for each area).

Research evidence in all of the areas listed below is likely to be important for parliamentary scrutiny. An area that is ranked lower on the list (and/or with a lower average rating) is not unimportant but instead is likely to be important to a narrower group of committees, reflecting their different remits.

Please note: These ARIs are not an invitation to tender for funding or an offer for UK Parliament to collaborate with researchers on projects. They are also not an exhaustive list of all areas in which Parliament may be interested in research evidence in the future.

1. Lessons learned from the COVID-19 outbreak

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 19

Average rating out of 5: 3.96 (±1.09)1

Research questions in this area include:

1.1. How possible is it to apply the lessons learned from the COVID-19 outbreak to other pandemics, other public health risks (such as biological or chemical weapons) or other hazards or threats (such as natural disasters or acts of terrorism)?

1.2. How should the UK apply the lessons learned from this pandemic to develop a strategy for future natural disasters? How should national risk assessments be altered?

1.3. How can the UK Government identify ‘what works’ in their responses to the COVID-19 outbreak? What long-term follow-ups are needed to scrutinise the Government’s response?

1.4. What data need to be collected in order to understand the full economic, social and health impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak?

1.5. What disaster risk reduction strategies have been most effective during the COVID-19 outbreak?

1.6. What have been the most successful measures to reduce transmission? How widely do measures need to be adhered to in order to be effective?

1.7. Have the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) and Public Health (Control of Disease) Act (1984) been used effectively during the COVID-19 outbreak? What amendments or additional legislation would have permitted more effective Government responses? What has the COVID-19 outbreak revealed about the availability and/or appropriateness of emergency powers and their oversight?

1.8. What strategies could have been in place to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak? What organisations could have had greater powers to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak?

1.9. What would have been the optimum time for Government responses to have happened? What factors influenced the speed of responses and how can optimum timeliness be achieved in the future?

1.10. How effective were structures for joint working between UK Government and the devolved administrations in the UK’s COVID-19 response? What would make joint working more effective in the event of future public health crises?

1.11. How should approaches to data modelling and decision-making be changed following lessons learned in the COVID-19 outbreak?

1.12. Have Local Authorities been following their pandemic plans during the COVID-19 outbreak? How should Local Authorities change their pandemic plans in the future?

1.13. How effective are scenario-planning exercises? How can they be made more effective? How many lessons learned from scenario planning exercises were applied during the COVID-19 outbreak?

1.14. What are the benefits and risks of pandemic planning based on specific threats/pathogens (such as influenza)? What are the benefits and risks of pandemic planning based on general threats? What has been learned from the UK’s previous focus on preparing for an influenza pandemic?

1.15. How is the COVID-19 outbreak likely to affect research priorities and research funding? What are the risks of focusing research on COVID-19?

1.16. How has manufacturing capacity in the UK affected its ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic? How should manufacturing capacity in the UK change in the future to improve preparedness for other public health crises?

1.17. What positive changes have happened as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak? How can these positive changes be upheld in the long-term?

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2. National and international preparedness for future pandemics

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 17

Average rating out of 5: 3.72 (±1.10)

Research questions in this area include:

2.1. How prepared is the UK for subsequent waves of the COVID-19 outbreak? How can the likelihood of subsequent waves be lowered? What long-term changes will be required to keep transmission low?

2.2. How much medical equipment (including ventilators, personal protective equipment and medication) has been used during the COVID-19 outbreak? What are the predictions for how much might be needed in future pandemics? How much should be set aside to prepare for future pandemics? How should this be stored and monitored?

2.3. What non-medical equipment and resources (such as raw materials or non-perishable food items) are needed in the UK to prepare for future pandemics, especially in the case of disrupted global supply chains?

2.4. How should the behaviour of the UK population change to prevent future pandemics (for example, hand washing practices, mask-wearing or continued social distancing)? How can these behaviours be encouraged?

2.5. What role has the UK’s housing density had on transmission of the virus? How could the UK change housing in the future to reduce transmission rates?

2.6. What changes to existing infrastructure, urban planning and building regulations can help reduce transmission rates? What will be the likely trade-offs of these changes (such as the resulting environmental or social effects)?

2.7. How well did the UK deal with excess deaths during the COVID-19 outbreak? How can the UK prepare its infrastructure to meet an unexpected rise in deaths in the future?

2.8. How effective was public health surveillance (such as testing) in the UK and globally? How could public health surveillance be improved? What have different national approaches shown about the advantages/disadvantages of having decentralised or centralised systems?

2.9. How will the rise in antimicrobial resistance affect responses to future pandemics? How can this effect be mitigated?

2.10. How can planning for pandemics best take into account multiple potential impacts, including the likely impacts of any mitigation measures? How can these effects be built into planning models? How should different categories of impact be weighted when determining emergency responses?

2.11. How well was knowledge shared internationally during the COVID-19 outbreak? How and when did states make decisions about their responses to the pandemic?

2.12. How could the UK cooperate with other nations to improve global preparedness for future pandemics? How could an international preparedness plan be created and enforced?

2.13. How could the UK cooperate bilaterally or regionally with other nations in the immediate public health response to future pandemics? What role could multilateral or plurilateral agreements have in ensuring reliable supplies of medical equipment for future crises? Are existing diplomatic channels effective for coordinating international public health responses? What are the likely future changes to international diplomacy resulting from COVID-19?

2.14. What will the role of international agencies (such as the World Health Organization) be in the future? How could global responses be coordinated in their absence?

2.15. How effective was global disease surveillance in identifying the threat of COVID-19? How can surveillance infrastructure be improved in the future? What surveillance and monitoring systems are needed to improve prediction systems for future pandemics?

2.16. How can spillover events (when a disease moves from animals to humans) be identified more quickly in the future? How can the likelihood of spillover events be reduced globally?

2.17. What is the UK’s current level of domestic research expertise relating to major pandemic threats? Would the UK’s level of research expertise meet the demands of any future pandemics? What are the most effective mechanisms for expertise to feed into assessing the risk/impacts of future crises and to shape UK Government responses to crises? What are the most effective strategies for experts to communicate their expertise to policy-makers?

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3. Economic recovery and growth

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 17

Average rating out of 5: 3.45 (±1.46)

Research questions in this area include:

3.1. What have been the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak? How can the economic impact caused by Government interventions (such as closing non-essential shops or imposing travel restrictions) be separated by those caused by voluntary reductions in movement and spending by the population? What have different measures take globally indicated about the different impacts of Government interventions and voluntary population responses? What are the predictions for the long-term economic impacts? How are interest rates, inflation and exchange rates likely to change in the future?

3.2. What are the likely long-term impacts on inequalities in the event of a recession? How can the UK Government ensure that economic recovery reduces inequalities in the future?

3.3. What are the predictions for the length and extent of economic recovery? What factors are likely to accelerate or inhibit economic recovery and economic growth?

3.4. What is the overall cost of the UK Government’s economic stimulus package? How effective has it been at preventing economic contraction? What is the least economically damaging way to cover the cost of the package?

3.5. What would be the most effective way for the UK Shared Prosperity fund to be used to help with economic recovery following the COVID-19 outbreak?

3.6. What historical monetary and fiscal policies have been successful in economic recovery and how/when should these be applied following the COVID-19 outbreak?

3.7. What can 2020 investment trends tell us about impacts from the COVID-19 outbreak?

3.8. How have levels of corporate fraud and corruption been measured during the COVID-19 outbreak? What effect has fraud and corruption had on the economy? What is the most effective way to combat corporate fraud and corruption during a global crisis?

3.9. What indicators for recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak should be considered besides GDP? Is there likely to be an international move towards different indicators, such as those measuring wellbeing?

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4. Social, economic and health inequalities

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 15

Average rating out of 5: 3.69 (±1.10)

Research questions in this area include:

4.1. How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected social inequalities and how will this change in the future? Which groups (such as those with protected characteristics or those identified as vulnerable) are more likely to have experienced loneliness or social isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak? Which groups have had greater caring responsibilities during the COVID-19 outbreak? Which groups have been at greater risk of domestic abuse or death by murder or suicide during this period?

4.2. How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected economic inequalities and how will this change in the future? Which groups (such as those with protected characteristics or those identified as vulnerable) are more likely to have experienced loss of employment or income? Which groups are more likely to have been furloughed? Which groups are more likely to have been working reduced hours?

4.3. How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected health inequalities and how will this change in the future? Which groups (such as those with protected characteristics or those identified as vulnerable) are more likely to have caught the virus or have died from COVID-19? Which groups will experience long-term health effects from COVID-19? How has access to healthcare or treatment plans differed between groups during the COVID-19 outbreak?

4.4. Have there been regional disparities in the number of COVID-19 cases and outcomes? What are the causes of these regional disparities and how can regional inequalities be reduced in the future?

4.5. What are the death rates for people with disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions? What have been the economic, social and health effects on people who have been asked to shield during the COVID-19 outbreak?

4.6. Have medical treatment decisions and social care assessments met the requirements of the Equality Act and human rights legislation during the COVID-19 outbreak?

4.7. Has there been a rise in hate speech, racism or discrimination during the COVID-19 outbreak? How can the UK Government respond to these most effectively?

4.8. What have been the effects of low quality or overcrowded housing in the COVID-19 pandemic?

4.9. How much temporary accommodation (including for homeless individuals or travellers) has been provided during the COVID-19 outbreak and how much did this cost? How has temporary accommodation affected the health and wellbeing of those to whom it was provided? What are the likely impacts of ending temporary accommodation arrangements?

4.10. What effect has the COVID-19 outbreak had on the use of forced labour in the UK (including modern slavery and human trafficking)?

4.11. What have been the health impacts for people in UK prisons and detention centres? What measures have been most effective in reducing transmission in these situations?

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5. Changes to viability and functioning of businesses

Number of Committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 16

Average rating out of 5: 3.41 (±1.40)

Research questions in this area include:

5.1. Which sectors and size of business has the COVID-19 outbreak had the greatest impact on? What specific support can be offered to those businesses in the long-term? What ongoing support could be offered to all UK businesses in the long-term?

5.2. What are the likely long-term changes to consumer behaviour? How will these affect business revenue? Which businesses are likely to be most affected by changes in consumer behaviour?

5.3. How much do cost pressures, perceived changes in future demand, uncertainty and other factors each contribute to falls in business investment? How have these factors interacted during the COVID-19 outbreak?

5.4. What could be the economic impact of multiple businesses filing for bankruptcy or going through corporate refinancing simultaneously?

5.5. How will businesses move away from crisis mode? How can they be encouraged to invest and grow?

5.6. What role are research, development and entrepreneurship likely to play in economic recovery? How can these best be encouraged?

5.7. How can the transport sector remain viable if there are long-term changes to working styles and consumer behaviour? How would investment in transport and infrastructure affect economic recovery?

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6. Sustainable economic recovery and policies to address climate change

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 15

Average rating out of 5: 3.48 (±1.25)

Research questions in this area include:

6.1. How can the UK balance its climate commitments (such as reductions in carbon emissions) with invigorating the economy and supporting industry? What would a ‘green economy’ after COVID-19 look like? What is the potential impact of COVID-19 on the UK’s likelihood of meeting its climate commitments?

6.2. How can positive environmental changes (such as reduced air, water or noise pollution) in the UK be maintained beyond the COVID-19 outbreak?

6.3. How could the rapid Government responses that have been used during the COIVD-19 outbreak be applied to tackling the climate emergency? What emergency measures would be most effective while maintaining economic stability?

6.4. How can the UK population be supported in maintaining more sustainable lifestyles (such as increased use of active travel and reduced air travel)? How can lessons learned about behaviour change and public health messaging during the COVID-19 outbreak be applied to encouraging sustainable lifestyles?

6.5. What changes to agriculture and food policy can ensure national food security in the event of future crises and pressures? How can sustainable food practices be supported in the UK and globally?

6.6. How could potential future changes to urban infrastructure (such as building of lower-density housing) impact environmental measures (such as biodiversity)? How can the UK create urban environments that are resilient to pandemics but are not damaging to ecosystems?

6.7. What are the likely long-term impacts on energy infrastructure caused by disruption to maintenance and construction of new systems during the COVID-19 outbreak? What future threats are there to UK energy security and how can these be mitigated while meeting UK climate commitments?

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7. International economy and global trade

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 13

Average rating out of 5: 3.36 (±1.25)

Research questions in this area include:

7.1. What is the likely economic impact of the different trade deals with the European Union in light of the COVID-19 outbreak? How can UK trade negotiations after Brexit best prioritise the goods and services most needed to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak?

7.2. How might some responses to COVID-19 around trade (such as onshoring or protectionism) affect global attitudes to the multilateral rules-based trading system? Are these responses and resulting attitudes likely to result in reforms (whether major or minor) to the World Trade Organization and/or regional trade agreements?

7.3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of limiting intellectual property rights around new technologies (such as vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics) developed during public health crises?

7.4. How will the UK’s geopolitical position change following the COVID-19 outbreak and Brexit? What will be the UK’s competitive advantages in the future? How can the UK best secure its new position?

7.5. What role is Foreign Direct Investment likely to play in economic recovery? What information from the UK Government would be most beneficial to overseas investors? What would be most effective approach for the UK Government’s Investment Strategy? What role should investment screening have following the COVID-19 outbreak?

7.6. How effective was the coordinated action of central banks during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak at lessening the economic impact? How does this compare to responses to previous financial crises? What are likely to be the most effective responses from central banks in the event of future crises?

7.7. How will the COVID-19 outbreak affect regional inequalities? What international measures are likely to reduce regional and political instability? What support from high-income countries could be most effective in stabilising the economies of low- and middle-income countries? How can international cooperation best ensure global recovery?

7.8. What role will multinational corporations play in international recovery? How are they likely to focus their resources in the long-term and what effect will this have on the UK economy?

7.9. What role will e-commerce play in global economic recovery? How able is the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure to deal with a long-term increase in e-commerce?

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8. Supply chains and shortages of goods and labour

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 13

Average rating out of 5: 3.33 (±1.31)

Research questions in this area include:

8.1. What are the likely impacts on global and internal supply chains following the COVID-19 outbreak? How can global and internal supply chains be made more resilient? What role are parallel supply chains likely to play in the future? How can UK businesses reliant on imports and exports be supported? How can the UK best secure consumer choice and national food security?

8.2. What has the COVID-19 outbreak revealed about the advantages and disadvantages of different responses (such as reshoring, onshoring and near-shoring) to supply chain vulnerability? What responses are likely to be the most effective in the event of future supply chain shocks?

8.3. What are the most effective ways for the UK to support domestic manufacturing and increase economic diversification? How able is the UK’s infrastructure to deal with an increase in internal trade?

8.4. Which industries are most at-risk of labour shortages following an end to freedom of movement? How can immigration policy best ensure the UK has access to the labour it needs in these industries? What are the likely skill shortages that the UK will face in the future? How can people out of work best be reskilled to address shortages? What will be the role of automation in addressing labour shortages?

8.5. What changes should be made to the Government’s Industrial Strategy following COVID-19?

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9. Resilience of the economy to future shocks

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 13

Average rating out of 5: 3.14 (±1.45)

Research questions in this area include:

9.1. What is the most effective strategy for economic recovery following shocks, such as pandemics?

9.2. How can the UK best balance economic growth with economic stability following the COVID-19 outbreak? Which economic models can ensure long-term economic resilience? How can the economy best be prepared for future shocks?

9.3. How is productivity likely to be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak over time? How can productivity be increased and maintained, even in the event of future economic shocks?

9.4. How will increased use of online services affect the economy? How can the economy be supported to adapt and benefit from an increase in online services?

9.5. What role does research and development funding have in ensuring the economy is resilient to future shocks?

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10. Communications strategy for public health messages

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 12

Average rating out of 5: 3.26 (±1.27)

Research questions in this area include:

10.1. How successful have communications campaigns around public health messages been during the COVID-19 outbreak? What impact have they had on the public’s behaviour? What learning can be drawn from the successes and failures of the communications strategy used during the COVID-19 outbreak?

10.2. How are the roles of different agencies with public health responsibilities understood by the public? Does the public view messages from some agencies as more credible than others? How should this shape future public health messaging?

10.3. How well have public health messages been conveyed to different groups, including people with disabilities, those with English as an additional language, and marginalised groups? What are the most effective strategies for ensuring public health messaging reaches all members of society equally?

10.4. What are the most effective ways to disseminate urgent messages to the public? What role could early warning systems and emergency notification systems have in the future?

10.5. What impact has the COVID-19 outbreak had on the public perception of research, science and scientists? How can public understanding of research and science be built for potential future public health emergencies?

10.6. What are the most effective strategies for updating public health messaging in the presence of new evidence? How does changing public health messaging affect likelihood to follow guidance?

10.7. What are the most effective strategies for communicating scientific uncertainty in emergencies? How do different approaches to communicating uncertainty affect people’s likelihood to follow guidance?

10.8. How does Government transparency about evidence and strategy affect the public’s likelihood to follow guidance?

10.9. Have the UK Government and devolved administrations communicated cross-UK differences in public health policies effectively during the COVID-19 outbreak? What are the most effective strategies for communicating these differences and ensuring adherence?

10.10. What is the current data literacy of individuals responsible for sharing and interpreting public health messages (including civil servants and journalists)? What are the most effective strategies for improving national data literacy?

10.11. What role has fake news had on people’s likelihood to follow guidance during the COVID-19 outbreak? What are the most effective strategies for ensuring Government communications are not undermined by mis/disinformation?

10.12. What barriers have researchers faced in sharing responsive research with other researchers and the general public? How can the academic peer review system be adapted during times of national emergency to ensure research evidence is available quickly?

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11. Resilience of society to future shocks

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 12

Average rating out of 5: 3.22 (±1.23)

Research questions in this area include:

11.1. What will be the ‘new normal’ for the UK? What are the most effective strategies for ensuring quality of life is improved in the long-term?

11.2. How can aspects of everyday life (such as involvement in hobbies, volunteering or socialising) be made more resilient to future shocks? What are the likely permanent or long-term changes to people’s lifestyles?

11.3. How are social networks and connections likely to change following the COVID-19 pandemic? How can a sense of community best be supported? What are the potential effects on people’s health and well-being if there is a permanent increase in digital connections and/or a reduction in face-to-face meetings? How will public spaces be used and maintained differently in the future?

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12. Changes to availability of work, working conditions and types of employment

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 11

Average rating out of 5: 2.99 (±1.39)

Research questions in this area include:

12.1. What are the likely future rates of long-term unemployment in the UK following the COVID-19 outbreak? What are the likely long-term changes to the job market and how will this affect the skills needed in the UK workforce? What are the most effective strategies for dealing with mass unemployment? What financial safety nets are likely to be required? What are the most effective strategies for helping people get back into work? How can unemployed people best be reskilled for roles most required after the COVID-19 outbreak?

12.2. How will COVID-19 affect worker productivity in the future? What effect will sick leave due to COVID-19 or related conditions have on worker productivity? What are the most effective strategies for supporting workers in being productive?

12.3. How will remote working be used by business following the COVID-19 outbreak? How will workers be supported in long-term remote working? What are the likely health and well-being effects of widespread remote working? What are the potential impacts for infrastructure (such as telecommunications and transport) of long-term widespread remote working?

12.4. How will health and safety guidance and workplace risk assessments change to lower the risk of future waves of COVID-19 or other pandemics? What are the most effective ways to support worker health, safety and well-being?

12.5. How are work contracts and working hours likely to change in the future? What are the most effective ways of supporting people in precarious work? What are the most effective ways of supporting people who are underemployed?

12.6. What challenges are people who are self-employed likely to face in the future? What are the most effective ways of supporting self-employed people?

12.7. What are the likely effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on pay gaps? Which groups have experienced the biggest loss of work and income during the COVID-19 outbreak? What are the most effective strategies for preventing a widening of pay gaps?

12.8. What is the likely role of the voluntary sector following the COVID-19 outbreak? How will levels of volunteering be affected in the long-term?

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13. Surveillance, data collection and data privacy

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 9

Average rating out of 5: 2.69 (±1.29)

Research questions in this area include:

13.1. How has Government protected the data privacy of the public during testing and contact tracing? What are the most appropriate measures for ensuring data privacy if surveillance measures are required in the long-term? When is the most appropriate point to revoke emergency Government powers and how should this be decided?

13.2. Have data collected during the COVID-19 outbreak been adequately protected? How can misuse of data best be measured?

13.3. How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected levels of cybercrime and fraud? What are the most effective ways to protect business and individuals from data breaches and support their continued use of innovative technology (such as remote GP appointments)? What are the most effective ways to improve cybersecurity and public awareness of cybercrime in the future?

13.4. What are the regulatory or technological barriers to data sharing that have been removed during the COVID-19 outbreak? How can data sharing between public bodies (such as health and social care providers) be supported in the future?

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14. Long-term mental health effects of COVID-19

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 8

Average rating out of 5: 2.52 (±1.34)

Research questions in this area include:

14.1. What are mental health effects of COVID-19 for those who have survived it? What is the best way to measure long-term mental health effects? What is the most effective way to support those who experience ongoing mental health impacts?

14.2. What are the mental health effects of working in frontline services (for example, in health or social care) during the COVID-19 outbreak? What are the most effective ways to support these workers in the long-term? How can health and social care services be supported in the event of widespread absences or loss of workers due to mental health issues in the future?

14.3. What are the mental health effects of social distancing measures? Have some groups been at greater risk of poor mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak?

14.4. What has been the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on those with pre-existing mental health conditions? What is likely to be the long-term effect of interruption of mental health treatment for these individuals and how can they most effectively be supported in the long-term?

14.5. What effect have social distancing measures had on addictive or compulsive behaviours (such as smoking, alcohol dependency or self-harm) in the population? What are the most effective strategies for helping people combat these behaviours?

14.6. Has there been an increase in ‘deaths of despair’ (those caused by overdoses, alcoholic liver disease or suicide) during the COVID-19 outbreak? How should deaths of despair be monitored in the long-term?

14.7. How many people in the UK have been affected by bereavement, complex grief or trauma during the COVID-19 outbreak? What is the most effective strategy for supporting individuals experiencing these conditions in the long-term?

14.8. How can mental health services best be prepared to deal with an increase in the number of individuals requiring support following the COVID-19 outbreak?

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15. Changes to the role of education and the future of learning

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 7

Average rating out of 5: 2.57 (±1.39)

Research questions in this area include:

15.1. How can schools best be supported in providing face-to-face teaching in the safest possible way? What measures help reduce transmission between children and young people?

15.2. How will the education sector be affected by teaching staff shortages beyond the COVID-19 outbreak? What are the most effective retention strategies for the education sector? How will interruption of teacher training affect numbers of qualified teachers and quality of teaching in the future?

15.3. What are the most effective ways to make teaching resilient to potential future changes (such as school closures due to future waves or other causes) in the future? What are the barriers that schools, teaching staff and students have faced to providing/accessing education during the COVID-19 outbreak? How could these barriers be mitigated in the future?

15.4. How have the security and risks of education technology been assessed during the COVID-19 outbreak?

15.5. What is the likely impact of missed schooling for all students in the long-term? How can this best be measured? Which groups are at greatest risk of lowered attainment? What are the most effective strategies for preventing attainment gaps widening between different groups of children and young people?

15.6. What is the likely future of the higher education sector? What are the most effective strategies for ensuring it is financially viable? What are the most effective ways to make university teaching more resilient to potential future changes?

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16. Population mental health and well-being

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 7

Average rating out of 5: 2.50 (±1.33)

Research questions in this area include:

16.1. What has been the overall impact to population well-being of social distancing measures? What are the most effective ways to support well-being in the future?

16.2. How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected levels of social isolation and loneliness? Which groups have been at greater risk of social and isolation and loneliness during this period? How can these individuals best be supported following the COVID-19 outbreak?

16.3. What role has access to green spaces played in people’s well-being? How could public spaces and urban infrastructure be changed in the future to promote well-being?

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17. Long-term physical health effects COVID-19

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 7

Average rating out of 5: 2.49 (±1.31)

Research questions in this area include:

17.1. What are long-term physical health effects of COVID-19 for those who have survived it? What is the best way to measure long-term physical health effects? What is the most effective way to support those who experience ongoing health effects?

17.2. How many of those who had had COVID-19 develop immunity and how long does immunity last? What is the best way to measure population immunity?

17.3. Have people with pre-existing conditions been disproportionately affected by COVID-19? Which groups experienced the worst outcomes? How many excess deaths during the COVID-19 outbreak were due to other untreated conditions? What are the likely long-term effects of delays in treatment (such as surgeries) for those with medical conditions unrelated to COVID-19?

17.4. What have been the changes in nutrition and physical activity during the COVID-19 outbreak? How are these likely to impact long-term population health? What are the most effective strategies to improve population health?

17.5. How has housing quality affected people’s health during the COVID-19 outbreak?

17.6. What are the long-term health effects for children born during the COVID-19 outbreak? What are the long-term health effects for infants reaching critical stages during the COVID-19 outbreak?

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18. Strategy for vaccine development, production and distribution

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 6

Average rating out of 5: 2.58 (±1.16)

Research questions in this area include:

18.1. What is the most effective way to develop a vaccine quickly while ensuring efficacy and public safety? How effective has the UK’s focus on national scale clinical trials (for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics) been and what other approaches might have been considered?

18.2. What are the likely costs for widespread vaccination? How do these costs compare to the economic impact of not vaccinating?

18.3. What are the potential barriers to production and distribution of a vaccine? How can these best be mitigated? What is the most effective way for the UK to balance domestic manufacturing capability with international production in securing adequate doses of a vaccine?

18.4. What is the most effective strategy for rolling out vaccination? Which groups or regions should be a priority for receiving a vaccine?

18.5. How can the UK Government ensure high uptake of a vaccine? What are the most effective strategies for encouraging vaccination?

18.6. How likely is it that future strains of the virus will be resistant to the vaccine? How can the UK best prepare for a vaccine not being effective against future strains of the virus?

18.7. How have new developments (such as those in vaccine platform technologies) influenced the development of potential vaccines? To what extent have pandemic preparedness strategies supported the developments necessary for development of a vaccine?

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19. Future sustainability of the NHS and social care system

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 4

Average rating out of 5: 2.30 (±1.22)

Research questions in this area include:

19.1. What additional costs have the NHS and social care system been incurring during the COVID-19 outbreak? Has financial support from the Government covered these costs? What costs are the NHS and social care system likely to face as a result of COVID-19 in the future?

19.2. Are private social care services likely to be financially viable businesses following COVID-19? What are the most effective strategies for ensuring social care needs can be met in the future?

19.3. How can the NHS and social care system be made more resilient to potential future public health emergencies? What role could innovation and technology have in improving resilience?

19.4. What is the likely impact of waiting-list backlogs within the NHS? How can the NHS best be supported in ‘catching up’ with treating non-COVID-19 conditions?

19.5. How can the health and social care system best be supported to deal with future workforce issues (such as staff shortages or absences)?

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20. Changes to crime, policing and the criminal justice system

Number of committee staff who gave a rating of 4 or 5 for how important research evidence in that the topic area was likely to be for future scrutiny: 5

Average rating out of 5: 2.09 (±1.32)

Research questions in this area include:

20.1. How have type and number of crimes been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak? Have some groups or areas been disproportionately affected by crime in this period? How are trends in crime likely to develop in the future?

20.2. How have emergency police powers been used during the COVID-19 outbreak? When is the most appropriate time to revoke emergency powers?

20.3. What are the likely effects of interruption to probation and reintegration programmes for people released from prison to reoffending rates and crime levels in the future?

20.4. How can the justice system best be supported in dealing with a backlog of cases following the COVID-19 outbreak? What role could technology have in making the justice system more efficient while ensuring fairness?

20.5. How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected public opinion of the police and other public bodies? What is the likelihood of civil unrest resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak? What are the most effective strategies for maintaining and building public trust in public bodies and democracy?

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to David Ralph (University of Southampton) and the expert contributors to the COVID-19 survey. Thanks also to staff from teams across Parliament for their contributions.

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