COVID-19: University to lead ten major projects on impact of coronavirus

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THE University of Stirling has received a £500,000 research grant from the Scottish government to lead ten projects which will investigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The projects were announced by the Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman on April 28.

The projects will be led by scientists from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport as well as the Faculty of Social Sciences. 

Stirling experts will look at the impact in Scotland of COVID-19 on vulnerable children and young people, carers and support workers, people with a drug or alcohol dependency, those who are experiencing homelessness, older adults, and licensed premises.

The ten projects Stirling will lead are:

  • Co-design of a carer support app: connecting carers to help prevent infection and improve resilience (Dr Liz Forbat).
  • Improving the pre-hospital identification and management of people presenting to the ambulance service with COVID-19 symptoms (Dr David Fitzpatrick).
  • Managed alcohol programmes: Implementation of a novel intervention to help prevent infection (COVID-19) for people experiencing alcohol dependency and homelessness (Dr Tessa Parkes).
  • Sustaining the resilience and wellbeing of frontline community-based care and support workers to vulnerable older people during a time of crisis (Dr Grant Gibson).
  • Stress and mental health challenges experienced by third sector homelessness services workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland (Dr Hannah Carver).
  • COVID-19 social distancing effects on social engagement, loneliness, wellbeing and physical activity in Scottish older adults, and an exploration of potential ameliorating strategies (Professor Anna Whittaker).
  • Ambulance call-outs for psychiatric emergencies during the COVID-19 pandemic (Dr Josie Evans).
  • Understanding the health impacts of the COVID-19 response on people who use drugs in Scotland: implications for COVID-19 infection/transmission and impacts on harm reduction, treatment and recovery (Professor Catriona Matheson).
  • Protecting the safety and wellbeing of Vulnerable Children and Young People in Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic (Professor Jane Callaghan).
  • Examining policy options to manage the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on licensed premises and ambulance-call outs in Scotland (Professor Niamh Fitzgerald).
Professor Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor – Credit: Stirling University

The university’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Gerry McCormac, welcomed the grant for the research and also praised the university for what they have done so far in the fight against the virus. 

Professor McCormac said: “University of Stirling researchers are at the forefront of efforts to inform Scotland’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, understanding the impact of COVID-19 on aspects of our health, wellbeing, society and the economy.

“These ten projects – together with the wider package of investment in research at institutions across Scotland – demonstrate the critical part that Scotland’s higher education sector is playing in responding to this unprecedented crisis, and the essential role of our universities in driving forward Scotland’s recovery.”

Professor Judith Phillips, the Deputy Principal for research, said: “I welcome this major funding announcement from the Scottish Government – and am delighted to see that Stirling will lead ten projects under this programme of research.

Professor Judith Phillips – Credit: Stirling University

“Our experts here at Stirling can provide a vital insight into the health and social implications of the COVID-19 pandemic – and make a difference not only here in Scotland but around the world too.”

The Rapid Research for COVID-19 funding was launched last month by the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office last month. Successful applicants were then chosen by an independent expert panel. 

55 Rapid Research projects will be carried out across 15 Scottish universities and institutions, which will contribute to the global effort to fight the coronavirus.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Scotland is home to some of the most respected researchers and scientists in the world. COVID-19 is the biggest challenge we have faced in our lifetimes and it is vital that we capture the potential of the extraordinarily strong research base here to contribute to the global efforts to tackle and mitigate the impact of it.  

“I know many academics are already thinking about how their research can be used during this national and international emergency. This funding enables universities and research institutions to immediately draw on the very best science and methodologies available to build on our understanding of this virus, develop new treatments, stop infection and support people’s mental and physical health.”

The Chief Scientist for Health, Professor David Crossman, said: “The range of projects – both scientific subject areas and the different research institutions – that are receiving funding will help us understand many aspects of this terrible disease. The projects selected for funding all aim to give results as quickly as possible.

The projects are ready to begin right away and complete within a six-month timeframe.

Featured image credit: Stirling University

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