About the project
This research project seeks to gather data from countries where effective diagnostic testing systems have been implemented and ask how key aspects of these systems could be rapidly replicated in other contexts.
The project team will identify the key elements of successful testing systems, including measures taken that facilitated preparedness and resilience before the crisis, and rapid innovations that helped countries to deal with a fast-evolving pandemic.
The project will establish a UK research and knowledge exchange hub that will facilitate dialogue between the international research team and policymakers so that relevant questions are rapidly addressed and key findings are disseminated in the UK and beyond.
The research is running in parallel two lines of investigation:
International comparison of countries. Researchers will collect data about the testing systems in the four nations of the UK as well as those in South Korea, Germany, Ireland, Spain and South Africa. Research questions will explore the organisation of testing systems for different applications, from supporting test and trace programmes to surveillance of the disease at the population level. In each case, we will compare aspects of the system design, such as whether provision is centralised or distributed.
Transnational institutions and regulatory pathways. Researchers will explore how nation-states interact with transnational actors – such as the WHO, the EU, and large diagnostics companies – and seek to understand how these relationships determine national policy and impact on the scale of the global crisis. Desk research and stakeholder interviews will focus on the interaction between two potentially conflicting policy priorities: (i) increasing the range and quantity of tests available and (ii) ensuring the quality of tests and laboratory testing through regulatory controls.
This research aims to provide timely international comparative analysis of effective national diagnostic testing systems as well as highlighting the important role of transnational organisations.
The benefit of this research will include the provision of robust evidence to facilitate rapid uptake of effective elements into testing systems in the UK (and beyond) during the course of the current pandemic, with expected associated positive health and economic impacts. In the longer term, input on 'lessons learned' may support future epidemic and pandemic preparedness nationally and internationally.
Findings from the project will aim to inform the COVID-19 response in the UK and internationally, on topics including testing strategies for the virus and antibodies, and on the roles of international organisations in supporting diagnostic innovation.