Covid-19 research in Oxford and Berlin

Over the past two years the Oxford in Berlin Partnership has grown an enthusiastic community of multi-disciplinary scholars, across all research areas, arts and humanities, social science, physical science and medicine. The COVID pandemic presents a once-in-a-century challenge to use what we have created over three years, in this time of unprecedented need. 

The explosion of Covid-19 research in Oxford and Berlin provides an incredible opportunity to compare and contrast our different national approaches and work jointly to guide both our nations and the planet to recovery.

Many of our colleagues are working on COVID-19 projects: vaccines and immune response, drugs, diagnostics, digital health/big data/AI, ultrasound/medical imaging, ventilators, air quality, blockchain, epidemiological modelling, genomic and health data, ethics, demography and more. These projects are all extremely data hungry and time is of the essence.  We are in a position to accelerate the impact of coordinated research by providing the Oxford in Berlin open lab at the Museum für Naturkunde to facilitate smoother access to trial-site capacity, subject-specific expertise, and data.  We have reservoirs of good will on which we could much better capitalise if we could devise some modest organisational structures, supporting systems and resource.  Hunkering down for a year or two is neither an option nor an ethical approach to this global crisis. Rather we need urgently to strengthen our community as a virtual community, and find new ways to practice science together.

Our interdisciplinary focus enables us, even under lockdown, to continue to bring natural scientists, medics, social scientists, modellers and policy makers together to tackle a host of practical health implementations issues, to integrate the social-science components needed for medical-science solutions to achieve their maximum impact, and to more fully interrogate possible exit strategies from the pandemic. There is a tremendous opportunity to do comparative studies of the performance of health systems, pandemic responses (UK versus Germany, and others) and to monitor the different impacts on communities, society, healthcare and the economy. For example, we already have access to a controlled sample of British citizens living in Germany, many of whom have now offered already to be included in a British in Germany cohort that in a comparative UK/Germany study could quickly bring revealing real-time comparative immunity data to the table.