Results of special Covid-19-themed funding: research strengthens capacity to face future crises

5 Mar 2024

A solid and broad research base and the ability to make use of research data allowed different scientific disciplines to react quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Special funding granted by the Research Council of Finland was used by research projects to identify critical research questions. The funded projects have contributed to the impact of research and the crisis resilience of society.

2020 was an exceptional year. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were felt everywhere, in practical matters big and small, as well as in our ideas and our values. Already in the early days of the pandemic, the importance of high-quality science and knowledge in securing people’s wellbeing and societal functions was highlighted. In March 2020, the Research Council of Finland reacted promptly to the new research needs caused by the pandemic and quickly redirected its research funding. We launched a special funding call to support and accelerate research related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the mitigation of its effects, as well as the utilisation of research in society. The call was part of the Academy Programme ‘Pandemics and Other Crises – Response and Preparedness’ (RESILIENCE). With this programme, we wanted to respond to research needs in the context of societal crises and support research that contributes to preparedness for future crises.

Reacting quickly required a great deal of flexibility from Research Council staff and decision-making bodies, but especially from the research community. The threat of the widespread and serious consequences of a pandemic for our society motivated us all to act to make new research knowledge possible.

The special funding was used to fast-track ongoing research into the Covid-19 pandemic and the mitigation of its effects. The call was aimed at research projects in all fields of research that dealt with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Covid-19 pandemic caused by it, the societal impacts of the pandemic and the prevention and/or mitigation of its negative consequences. In total, the Research Council of Finland funded 44 research projects from twelve organisations with around 8.5 million euros.

Creating knowledge and capacity to contribute to society’s resilience and preparedness under exceptional circumstances

The funded research projects have now come to an end, and the researchers have reported on their results and impact. We want to highlight a few examples to illustrate how long-term research can prepare us to deal with sudden crises.

Remote teaching during the pandemic caused a slowdown in literacy development and affected teachers’ and principals’ wellbeing

The effect of coronavirus epidemic on education: Teacher stress and remote teaching practices as mechanisms for student outcomes (CONE)

The aim of the project was to understand the relationship between the Covid-19 pandemic and teachers’ and principals’ wellbeing at work and the learning of primary school pupils. The research was conducted through questionnaires and interviews with teachers and principals, pupils and their guardians. The results showed that although the pandemic was linked to the stress experienced by teachers and principals, wellbeing at work varied between individuals. Pupils associated mostly negative, but also positive experiences with remote teaching, although they missed seeing their friends. In addition, the results showed that the pandemic slowed down literacy development in primary schools. Remote teaching also raised concerns about children’s learning, especially among parents with children in need of support.

Flow simulations show infection risk can be significantly reduced by ventilation

Droplet clouds: simulations on cloud dynamics, dilution and persistence in public environments (DROP)

The project investigated the airborne spreading of pathogens using computer simulations. The project developed a computer program to solve 3D airflow problems using flow simulation. Using the software and graphics card computing, the researchers were able to achieve the computing power of a supercomputer on a desktop computer. The program was demonstrated and validated with simpler model problems. The program was also used to study the impact of window ventilation on reducing the risk of infection, among other things. The simulations showed that the risk of infection can be significantly reduced by ventilation. The program also showed that the ventilation characteristics of different indoor spaces can vary significantly, even when the supply air volume is constant. Advanced flow simulation methods can provide significant additional data on indoor air quality and its variation at different points in the room.

SOLIDARITY Finland: pioneering research into treatments to support the recovery of Covid-19 patients

WHO SOLIDARITY Finland: The multicentre trial on the efficacy of different antiviral drugs in SARS-CoV-2 infected patients (Covid-19)

  • Principal Investigator: Professor Kari Tikkinen, University of Helsinki

SOLIDARITY Finland is a randomised, pragmatic, multicentre trial conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to assess the impact of drug therapies (remdesivir, imatinib and infliximab) on the recovery of hospitalised Covid-19 patients. The groundbreaking study is by far the largest randomised medical trial in Finland during the pandemic. It provides a treatment strategy for Covid patients in 15 hospitals and also reliable data to guide future treatments. The results of the SOLIDARITY study, published in leading medical journals, demonstrated the effectiveness of remdesivir in reducing mortality and influenced global treatment recommendations. SOLIDARITY Finland is the only randomised hospitalisation study in the world to investigate recovery and long-Covid disease with a long-term, two-year follow-up. Its pragmatic, inclusive and effective approach to research has been recognised, and SOLIDARITY Finland has received awards for its significant societal impact.

Do you have questions or feedback for us?