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    International Development Committee announces its first Area of Research Interest: changes to the UK aid budget

    An inquiry into the effectiveness and influence of the Select Committee system by the 2017–19 House of Commons Liaison Committee made several recommendations on how to improve the use of research evidence in select committees. One recommendation was for committees to develop and publish areas of research interest (ARIs). The House of Commons Scrutiny Unit, with the support of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), is trialling select committee ARIs as a pilot exercise to better understand and assess how they can support parliamentary scrutiny.

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    COVID-19 Areas of Research Interest

    POST has published 20 COVID-19 Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) for the UK Parliament. ARIs were identified using the input of over 1,000 experts. They were then ranked in order of interest to UK Parliament research and select committee staff, following internal feedback. Each ARI comes with a series of questions aiming to further break down each broad area. The ARIs focus on the impacts of the global pandemic and range from economic recovery and growth, to surveillance and data collection, long-term mental health effects, education, vaccine development, and the NHS.

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    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.

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    COP26 expert database

    In November 2021 the UK will host COP26, the UN climate summit that will be vital for international efforts to respond to climate change. POST is inviting anyone with expertise in areas relating to COP26 to provide feedback. We would like to know what you think the UK Parliament and Government’s priorities should be while preparing for and delivering COP26. Findings from our survey will feed into an inquiry. Those who respond to the survey will be entered onto a database of experts who may be contacted by parliamentary staff, MPs or Peers, in order to help them scrutinise government preparations for COP26 over the next 16 months.

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    COVID-19 outbreak: What data or information do experts want the UK Government to release?

    Over 1,100 experts have shared with us their concerns about COVID-19 and COVID-impacted areas in the immediate and longer term future. This report includes data or information experts would like to see the Government release in order to understand the decisions that underpin its approach to the COVID-19 outbreak. Generally, experts have highlighted five key areas of concern in the way the UK Government has released information. These include: transparency of decision making mechanisms, the quality, quantity and range of types of evidence used, the justification of the Government's decisions, the need for accessible and understandable information, and the need to publish data as soon as its available. Experts have also called for additional information to be released by the Government including: academic studies, models and Government data sets used to make decisions, all data being collected during the COVID-19 outbreak, Government guidance to departments, public bodies and public services, and Government and other public recovery strategies.

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    Infrastructure and COVID-19: What are experts concerned about?

    Over 1,100 experts have shared with us their concerns about COVID-19 and COVID-impacted areas in the immediate and longer term future. This report outlines infrastructure concerns. Experts are concerned about public transport. They worry about the reduction of services and want clearer guidance on how to stay safe while traveling. They also note that after the outbreak people might not return to using public transport, which could have a range of negative impacts on infrastructure. Digital infrastructure is also an area of concern. Experts worry it will struggle to continue to cope with increased demand. In terms of energy, experts worry about volatility in the energy market and that this could affect how much energy the UK is able to import. Finally there are general concerns about the UK's ability to monitor and maintain infrastructure. Such services might have halted or reduced. On top of that, returning workers might be less familiar with the new processes and put their health and safety at risk.

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    Environment and COVID-19: What are experts concerned about?

    This report outlines environment concerns. Greenhouse gas emissions seem to be falling during the outbreak. While experts note an opportunity to continue this reduction through policy-making, experts are concerned that the need to reinvigorate the economy will override environmental considerations. Access to green space has been important in supporting people’s well-being. Experts note that access to green space is limited in some urban areas. They have similar concerns for the equality of access to active travel such as cycling.

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    Crime, justice, policing and COVID-19: What are experts concerned about?

    Over 1,100 experts have shared with us their concerns about COVID-19 and COVID-impacted areas in the immediate and longer term future. This report outlines crime, justice and policing concerns. On policing, experts are concerned about how the police are monitoring and enforcing adherence to Government restrictions. This includes the inadvertent criminalisation of certain communities and the risk for civil disorder. Experts are also concerned about the potential increase of certain types of crime during the outbreak, such as organised crime, corruption, domestic abuse and cybercrime. On the criminal justice system experts worry about a backlog of cases in courts which were put on hold due to the pandemic. They are also worried about a surge of news cases as a result of the pandemic. Finally there are concerns about the health of prisoners at this time and want to know about plans for early releases.

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    Education and COVID-19: What are experts concerned about?

    Over 1,100 experts have shared with us their concerns about COVID-19 and COVID-impacted areas in the immediate and longer term future. This report outlines education concerns. Experts are concerned about home learning. They worry about the added burden on parents, the quality of home education, and the feasibility of assessment. Access to different online tools, and varying levels of digital literacy may widen achievement gaps. Experts also want to know how the Government is contributing to making education accessible from home, and how it is providing support to those who need it. Experts are also concerned about how decisions to close and open schools/nurseries are being made. Social distancing can be challenging and stressful in these setting which could negatively impact teaching staff. Finally there are several concerns on universities. Experts worry that universities may struggle to provide high-quality education. There may also be a reduction in university staff, and a drop in research projects. There might also be a drop in admissions which would have a knock-on effect on universities' main source of income.

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    Society, community and COVID-19: What are experts concerned about?

    Over 1,100 experts have shared with us their concerns about COVID-19 and COVID-impacted areas in the immediate and longer term future. This report outlines social and community concerns. Experts are concerned about social inequalities beyond health. They note that in the long term groups may have different access to opportunities. This could be particularly true for those with protected characteristics such as women, members of the BAME community, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Experts are also concerned about how changes in Government measures may lead to negative responses from the UK public. These could range from the public becoming less motivated to follow guidance, to public resistance of contact tracing for fears of increased surveillance. Experts also note risks to social cohesion; From an increase in racist or xenophobic behaviour, to an erosion of trust in democracy and democratic institutions. However they point out that COVID-19 could also present an opportunity for positive cultural change.

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    Media, communications and COVID-19: What are experts concerned about?

    Over 1,100 experts have shared with us their concerns about COVID-19 and COVID-impacted areas in the immediate and longer term future. This report outlines media and communications concerns. Experts worry that Government messages are unclear. They note that there have been inconsistencies in information shared by different parts of Government. It's also unclear what the UK public is legally required to do, and how these requirements vary across the UK. Beyond that, there are concerns about the overarching Government communications strategy, the scientific evidence behind it and the number of people it has reached. Experts are also concerned about the role of mass media during the outbreak. They are concerned about inaccurate reporting and how it could damage the public's trust in mainstream media. They're also concerned about the economic impact of the outbreak on independent media outlets. A financial downturn could lead to closures, limiting access to news for a segment of the UK population. Finally experts are concerned about misinformation. They worry that the UK Government is not doing enough to call out misinformation and stop its spread.

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    International affairs and COVID-19: What are experts concerned about?

    Over 1,100 experts have shared with us their concerns about COVID-19 and COVID-impacted areas in the immediate and longer term future. This report outlines concerns about international affairs. Experts are concerned about how the Coronavirus outbreak might affect relations between countries, as suppression strategies drift. This could create international tensions and lead to a rise in populism. There are also concerns about how criticism of the UK response might impact the the country's global position. Experts are also concerned about a lack of international cooperation. They worry that the UK will not consult evidence from other countries. They note that there is a general need for greater data sharing between countries to coordinate the response. Other areas of concern include international economy, trade and development. There are fears of a global recession and concerns over the lack of a unilateral response from the G20 and WTO. Low- and middle-income countries are also likely to be further impacted by the outbreak, as contributions to international development funds drop or are re-directed to COVID-19. Finally, experts are concerned about international travel and migration. There is uncertainty about what the effects of the outbreak on international travel will be and experts are concerned about impacts on migrant and seasonal workers. They are also concerned about the health of refugees and a potential increase in refugee numbers in the long-term, due to geopolitical instability.

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