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New webinar highlights Canada’s rapid research response to COVID-19

Geneviève Boily-Larouche and Charu Kaushic

Geneviève Boily-Larouche and Charu Kaushic, from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR)’s Institute of Infection and Immunity, located at McMaster University, shared insights on Canada's research response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


By Ruth Adair, April 29, 2020

The Government of Canada has swiftly mobilized Canada's research and scientific communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This steadfast commitment to keeping up to date with the latest scientific evidence and discoveries has allowed us to adapt public health measures to help prevent and slow the spread of this novel virus.

A new webinar by Charu Kaushic and Geneviève Boily-Larouche explores Canada’s research response to COVID-19 and the ways in which the Government of Canada has been working collectively to make progress, and how government funding is being spent on research and other pandemic-related initiatives. Kaushic is scientific director and Boily-Larouche is assistant scientific director of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR)’s Institute of Infection and Immunity, located at McMaster University.

“The current COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled an unprecedented capacity for knowledge sharing, at the national and global level, between the scientific community and decision-makers,” says Boily-Larouche. This sharing of information, Boily-Larouche explains, has been made possible through several channels and mechanisms, supported nationally and internationally, including:

Social media has also played a key role. “Platforms such as Twitter have been extremely important to support real-time sharing of information from the international community to inform public health measures and allow countries to learn from each other,” she says. At the same time, she is careful to note that social media also supports the exchange of misinformation, which can have negative effects on the response.

Boily-Larouche draws attention to the fact that translating research to public health initiatives and national policies necessarily comes with challenges, and that knowledge translation and co-ordinated efforts are critical.

“What’s required is a common understanding of the issues and ways forward, along with support for rapid sharing of data and results, timely knowledge synthesis, and accurate interpretation of results for recommendations,” she says.

The COVID-19 pandemic has initiated a whole-of-government response, bringing together actors at all levels, from federal to provincial. “We’ve had to co-ordinate, understand and exchange information at high speed between all of those different actors to be able to develop a very relevant, rapid response and put it into action,” Boily-Larouche says.

Watch the webinar to learn more about Canada’s research response to COVID-19.

This webinar is the second of 10 in a series, Expert Perspectives on Pandemics, which forms part of the Master of Science in Global Health program’s global health symposium. Stay tuned for more webinars which will be posted online in the coming weeks.