• POSTnote

    Interpretable machine learning

    Machine learning (ML, a type of artificial intelligence) is increasingly being used to support decision making in a variety of applications including recruitment and clinical diagnoses. While ML has many advantages, there are concerns that in some cases it may not be possible to explain completely how its outputs have been produced. This POSTnote gives an overview of ML and its role in decision-making. It examines the challenges of understanding how a complex ML system has reached its output, and some of the technical approaches to making ML easier to interpret. It also gives a brief overview of some of the proposed tools for making ML systems more accountable.

  • Horizon scanning

    Life beyond COVID-19: What are experts concerned about?

    Over 350 experts have shared with us what they think the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic will be in the next 2 to 5 years. This work was done to inform the House of Lords COVID-19 Committee inquiry on Life beyond COVID, and is based on 366 expert responses. Areas of concern include work and employment, health and social care, research and development, society and community, the natural environment, education, arts, culture and sport, infrastructure and crime and justice.

  • Rapid response

    Interpreting COVID-19 test accuracy

    Testing people to see if they are currently infected or previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a key component of medical management, public health monitoring and research. Diagnosing people as having active infections is a fundamental part of any test and contact tracing system. Improving the speed and accuracy of tests that detect current infections is a research priority and the focus of recent UK Government investment and policy decisions. Antibody tests are also an important tool to understand how many people in the population have been infected and how their immune system responded.

  • Rapid response

    Contact tracing apps for COVID-19: September update

    Contact tracing apps could be used to control the COVID-19 outbreak. Most of them work by automatically registering another smartphone when it is close by for a set period of time. If the user then tests positive for COVID-19 in the future, the contact tracing app notifies these contacts. Concerns have been raised about misuse of personal data. Initial data suggests there has been slow uptake of this new technology by users, and it's unclear if contact tracing apps have had or will affect the pandemic. Northern Ireland, Scotland, and now England and Wales have recently launched contact tracing apps.

  • Work programme

    Approved: Preventing zoonotic diseases

    A POSTnote on preventing zoonotic diseases will review the evidence on a One Health approach to zoonoses prevention. It will focus on the animal-environment-human interface in both wild and domestic animals, reviewing national and international policy approaches, and lessons learnt from previous epidemics. It will also summarise opportunities and challenges for the UK’s role in global health and biosecurity policy arenas post COVID-19. Provisional start date: October 2021.

  • POSTnote

    Digital sequence information

    Evolving life sciences and agricultural research approaches may have a decreasing need to access physical resources in future, such as plant seeds or viral material. Information and genetic data may be all that is required for commercial exploitation of biological resources. This POSTnote summarises the challenge this creates for international discussions on the governance of genetic resources and the possible options for addressing these.

  • Rapid response

    Short and long term health effects of COVID-19

    There is emerging evidence that COVID-19 affects many systems of the body, with patients reporting a wide range of symptoms. ‘Long-haulers’ are patients who experience ongoing COVID-19 symptoms for several months after infection. These include fatigue, difficulties in thinking, shortness of breath, chest pain, irregular or abnormal heart rhythm, and joint pain. 

  • Rapid response

    COVID-19 and the disadvantage gap

    Disadvantaged pupils tend to have lower educational attainment compared with their peers; this is often called the disadvantage gap. School closures, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, are likely to have widened the disadvantage gap. This is because disadvantaged pupils tend to have less access to technology, spend less time learning and have reduced support from parents/carers compared with their peers.

  • Rapid response

    Immunity to COVID-19: August update

    The latest research suggests that antibodies can be detected in recovered patients for up to 2 to 3 months after symptoms. There's also emerging evidence for the role of T cells in the immune response. A better understanding of the immune response is vital if there is going to be a successful vaccine.

  • POSTbrief

    Outward medical tourism

    Medical tourism refers to when people seek medical treatment in a different country than the one they reside. In the context of this brief it refers to UK residents seeking elective, non-emergency medical treatment abroad. This briefing outlines the nature of the global medical tourism industry, the number of UK residents seeking medical treatments abroad, the types of treatments sought and the reasons for seeking them, the countries visited, and examines the issues raised for the patients and for the NHS on their return.

  • Rapid response

    COVID-19, children and schools

    Children who have COVID-19 are not likely to develop severe symptoms. They are also much less likely to die from the disease than people in older age groups. there is some evidence on infection risk for under 13s and for BAME children but more data from well-designed studies is needed to draw conclusions.