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UK Science, Research and Technology Capability and Influence in Global Disease Outbreaks


The Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak is the latest in a series of disease outbreaks that have spread internationally, presenting major challenges to communities, national governments and international institutions. 

Scientific knowledge and advice are foundational to the prevention, management and treatment of these global outbreaks, at both an international and national level. 

Once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed its peak, it will be necessary for international and national systems to learn from the crisis. The Science and Technology Committee will inquire formally into the place of UK research, science and technology in the national and global response, and what lessons should be learned for the future. 

This will include: 

1. The contribution of research and development in understanding, modelling and predicting the nature and spread of the virus; 

2. The capacity and capability of the UK research base in providing a response to the outbreak, in terms of: 

  • advice to government, public bodies and others on managing the outbreak; 
  • the development of testing, diagnostic methods and technologies; 
  • the development and testing of vaccines; and 
  • the development and testing of therapeutics; 

3. The flexibility and agility of institutions and processes to respond on the above during a crisis including: 

  • the availability and responsiveness of funding; and 
  • the optimal functioning of regulatory and ethical processes; 

4. The capacity to manufacture and distribute testing, diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines: 

  • both standing capacity and capacity able to be mobilised; 

5. The capturing during the crisis of data of the quantity and quality needed to inform: 

  • decisions made during the crisis; and 
  • to maximise the learnings afterwards; 

6. The mechanisms for communication of scientific evidence internationally, within national governments and with the public: 

  • including the handling of conflicting scientific opinions; and 

7. The UK’s readiness for future outbreaks, including a consideration of: 

  • the National Risk Register; 
  • the UK Pandemic Influenza Strategy; and 
  • PHE’s Global Health and Infectious Diseases Strategy. 


In its advice to national governments on dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, the World Health Organization recommends that authorities identify and document lessons learned to inform future actions in areas such as co-ordination and planning, and surveillance and case investigation. There should be a capacity to (i) capture evidence and (ii) ensure that the research and development, including new learnings, take place during the course of, as well as after, major outbreaks.  

Therefore, while the majority of the Committee’s inquiry will take place after the current emergency, and we will avoid taking effort and focus from those people and bodies responsible for managing the urgent measures, we will gather some evidence in private and in public throughout the course of the pandemic. 

The course of the pandemic is uncertain so we will not be issuing, at this stage, a deadline to our call for evidence. Deadlines for submitting written evidence may be issued in due course.  


This inquiry is currently accepting evidence

The committee wants to hear your views. We welcome submissions from anyone with answers to the questions in the call for evidence. You can submit evidence until Friday 31 July 2020.

Read the call for evidence before submitting

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