COVID-19 research at UCL
From the outset, our academic community worked tirelessly to address the COVID-19 pandemic from all angles, with our experts taking a prominent role in advancing public knowledge by advising world leaders, collaborating with key partners, and providing expert commentary to inform the media.
Demonstrating the commitment and full scale of our response, UCL was ranked top in the UK for our research output relating to COVID-19 in the first stages of the pandemic. What’s more, from the very beginning, all of our research outputs have been made freely available to the world through our open access portal.
The UCL COVID-19 Research Database now holds over 4,000 publications of research related to the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) with every faculty represented.
UCL COVID-19 research on ScienceOpen
UCL's collection of COVID-19 research is now publicly available on ScienceOpen.
Ongoing impact of COVID-19 research projects
Crucially, as the pandemic evolved, so too did our research. Over the last few years, we have re-focused, adapted and expanded our activities in line with unfolding global needs.
UCL-Ventura breathing aid
In March 2020, UCL engineers, UCLH clinicians and staff from Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains developed the UCL-Ventura device – a breathing aid that could help keep patients out of intensive care.
This breathing aid was produced within a rapid timeframe – it took fewer than 100 hours from the initial meeting to production of the first device. 10,000 breathing aids were manufactured for use in the UK and were deployed to over 130 NHS hospitals. In April 2020, the device designs were licensed at no cost to support the humanitarian, global fight against COVID-19.
UCL-Venturas were manufactured and distributed across the world, and used in hospitals in over 30 countries. The collaboration demonstrated the way that universities, the NHS, and industry came to help the international response to the pandemic, by providing vital technologies.
The impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on foster carers and children in care
Through conducting in-depth interviews with foster carers, Dr Nick Midgley (UCL Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology) and his team investigated how the first wave of the pandemic and first national lockdown affected foster families within the UK.
Their findings showed that whilst some aspects of the pandemic had a negative impact on families, there were also some positives. Whilst carers reported feeling increased pressure, some children used the time during lockdown to build stronger relationships with their new carers and foster families.
The team have used their findings to inform the design of a separate study evaluating the impact of the Reflective Fostering Programme, run by the Anna Freud Centre, on supporting the emotional well-being of children in care. This study has now been re-designed so that the support offered to carers taking part is delivered online, and has been informed by what foster carers taught Dr Midgley’s team about the importance of supporting relationships between carers and the children in their care.
Experiences of COVID-related racism
A project team led by Dr Ada Mau (IOE) and Dr Lu Gram (Institute for Global Health, Population Health) investigated East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) young Londoners’ experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly COVID-related racism, and the impact on their families, education, health, and social identities.
The findings revealed that many participants reported pre-existing racism towards ESEA people, and the pandemic exacerbated racialisation and racism, often linked to COVID-19. However, some of these difficult experiences brought about some positive changes, including new or increased awareness and understanding of racism, as well as engagement with activism to challenge racism/Orientalism or/and form solidarity with wider anti-racist movements.
The findings will contribute to further understanding of, and ways to tackle, existing racism and xenophobia towards minority ethnic people in London. Furthermore, the findings will be useful to inform support for young Londoners in the post-pandemic recovery.
Vaccine hesitancy and community-based intervention
Dr Shoba Poduval (Primary Care & Population Health) and Dr Alison Hicks (Information Studies) led a novel community-based digital intervention to address ethnic inequalities in COVID-19 vaccine confidence and work with communities to improve the health of those hardest hit by the pandemic.
Recognising the importance of community storytelling, a series of short films were made as a part of the project, in collaboration with Ross Adamson and Isobel Creed at the University of Brighton. The films were written and produced by women from Skills Enterprise (a charity supporting disadvantaged communities in Newham).
As part of the research, the project is now examining what impact the films could have on people’s views of their own health and how we share health information. The films are available on YouTube.