More than 50 Scottish studies will tackle the virus and its impact

Date posted

28 April 2020


Edinburgh Napier researchers have been awarded nearly £167,000 to work on three Covid-19 projects.

The work - exploring care home practice and tracking public sentiment about the pandemic - is part of a programme of ‘rapid research’ which has received almost £5 million of Scottish Government funding.

The newly-announced projects involve 15 Scottish universities and research institutions, and aim to boost understanding of the coronavirus, screen potential treatments and support clinical trials.

The national contribution to the global effort to combat the virus and its effects will also include research into preventing transmission of infection, new diagnostics and supporting the mental health of both frontline workers and the general population.

Close-up of social media apps on a smart phone

Professor Amir Hussain, from Edinburgh Napier’s School of Computing, and Professor Aziz Sheikh from The Usher Institute at the University of Edinburgh, have been awarded £135,104 to work on an Artificial Intelligence-powered dashboard for tracking Covid-19-related public sentiment and opinion mining in social media platforms.

It will help policymakers, public health and clinical practitioners by enabling continuous monitoring of evolving trends on social media and attitudes towards issues like social distancing, travel restrictions and lockdown.

The aim is to boost understanding of the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic on public health and wellbeing, and to support decision makers by informing the development of appropriate interventions.

Research Fellow Lucy Johnston, from the School of Health & Social Care, was awarded £20,865 and £10,857 to cover two separate projects relating to work in care homes.

The first aims to improve coping mechanisms and team togetherness among care home staff who have to deal with residents’ deaths, as well as making them more confident in communicating with relatives.

The five-month project will explore the use of online debriefings and examine how electronic care planning can be used to document the resident’s experience and inform discussions with the person’s loved ones.

Portrait of Lucy Johnston

The second project she is leading, lasting two months, is geared to supporting resilience, avoiding burnout and boosting retention among the care home workforce during the pandemic by collating details of best practice and worthwhile initiatives and sharing learning points across the sector.

The project proposals got the go-ahead after being reviewed by an independent panel of experts convened by the Chief Scientist Office.

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.”

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.

“Scotland is in a strong position to undertake clinical research and the response from universities and research institution to this Covid-19 research call emphatically reinforces that view.”

All of the research projects will be completed within a six-month timeframe.