The Wellcome Longitudinal Population Studies COVID-19 Questionnaire Secretariat – one year on and what’s next.
By COVID-19 LH&W National Core Study, on 19 July 2021
By David Porteous*, Robin Flaig*, Lynn Molloy** and Nic Timpson**
Generation Scotland, University of Edinburgh* and ALSPAC, University of Bristol**
Is it really (just) a year since Wellcome kick-started the Longitudinal Population Studies (LPS) Secretariat with crucial start-up funding? In that time, have we really been able to engage with 13 diverse cohorts to assemble COVID-19 relevant questionnaires? And make these readily and freely available? Have they been picked up and used in whole or part by more than 100 studies? With more than 31,000 responses from our volunteers? The answer is a remarkable ‘yes’ to all of the above.
Since May 2020, the Steering Group has grown to 32 active members. We have met online 6 times. We have assembled questionnaires to query each of the following topics relevant to the pandemic: Physical health; Long COVID; Mental health and wellbeing; Social Circumstances; Lifestyle; Parents concerning children and young people; Personal response to the pandemic; Impact of Brexit; COVID-19 knowledge and policy; Domestic violence; Healthcare; Environmental attitudes; and coming soon, measures for Children and young people. You can access them here.
Whenever you post or publish your findings, do please reference the resource. Every bit of evidence counts when measuring the added value from the Wellcome Trust investment.
The LPS Secretariat has demonstrated like never before how agile are the UK’s broad portfolio of longitudinal population cohorts. The willingness under COVID-19 to collaborate has paid dividends, widening diversity and increasing statistical power. Anchored by pre-pandemic assessments of health and wellbeing, sociodemographic information – and biological markers in most – one key feature is our ability to measure change under COVID-19. This vital feature has enhanced interpretation and reliability of LPS over the plethora of de novo cross-sectional studies conducted over the past year.
The LPS Secretariat has underpinned several important research publications, with many more in the pipeline. You can find them here. It has also fed into policy, through reports to Wellcome and other funder representatives on the Steering Group, and to SAGE via HDR UK.
For early stage career scientists, it has catalysed previously unimaginable levels of networking, skills, knowledge and best-practice sharing. It has provided a lifeline and lifetime opportunity for several whose research plans were stalled abruptly by the pandemic.
Alongside parallel efforts to collect valuable new COVID-19 relevant data such as serial antibody testing results, it has laid the platform for the successful and substantial bids to the National Core Studies (NCS) programme and MRC/NIMHR open call for Long COVID research proposals for Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing and Longitudinal Linkage Collaboration. Together, these efforts are not only looking to contribute meaningfully to the analysis of COVID-19 and the impact of the pandemic now, but also to leave an important legacy data set able to chart the long-term impact of this simultaneously global yet personal event. Importantly, several of the NCS analysts were themselves important contributors to the success of the LCS Secretariat.
So what next? The added value already demonstrated in such a short time surely means that as a community, we must continue and build on what has been started. The relevance of what has already been achieved directly supports other major infrastructure platforms such as CLOSER and HDR UK. It is highly relevant to the nascent Population Research UK initiative. There are other ambitious plans brewing in UKRI which would benefit.
Wellcome made it very clear at the outset that their support was a ‘one off’ and time limited. ALSPAC and Generation Scotland will keep things going for now. We would however love to hear from others who might want to lend a hand, share some administrative assistance or help maintain, update or co-host the resource.