Canada’s Chief Science Advisor has collaborated with the Government of Canada’s departmental science advisors, the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, Compute Ontario and the University of Toronto to launch CanCOVID, a new Canada-wide network of health, science and policy researchers to facilitate COVID-19 research collaboration.
For more information on the CanCOVID initiative:
Follow on Twitter: @CanCOVID
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Experts from Canada's scientific, policy, and health communities have mobilized to launch CanCOVID, a rapid-response network for facilitating the nation's COVID-19 research effort. CanCOVID was proposed by Canada's Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, to expedite communication and collaboration between the scientific, healthcare and policy communities during the COVID-19 crisis. "From virus detection to disease management, science has helped us fight COVID-19 every step of the way, and science will help us prevail," said Dr. Nemer. CanCOVID has room to self-organize so that it can respond to rapidly evolving regional and local research needs. "The scale of the COVID-19 challenge demands agile, transdisciplinary leadership," said Health Canada Science Advisor Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, who helps to lead the CanCOVID implementation effort.
Using CanCOVID, members can collaborate across critical research and development areas, from clinical trials and testing, to diagnostics and treatment. They can also easily connect with others in their regional or local networks, and with clinicians on the frontlines. Ultimately, CanCOVID's mission is to enable the agile, evidence-based decision-making needed to help steer Canada safely through the COVID-19 pandemic. "CanCOVID has the potential to avoid research waste by preventing duplication of effort and ensuring that decision makers can get the best available information when they need it," said Dr. Sharon Straus, Director of the Knowledge Translation Program at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and also a member of the CanCOVID network. "These are critical issues in this evolving pandemic."
CanCOVID will make it easier for researchers who are working on different angles of the same problem to find each other, share what they know, vet research results, and anticipate challenges. "I'm looking forward to connecting with government agencies and also with colleagues from across Canada," said University Health Network Scientist Beate Sander, who joined the network during its preliminary launch on April 1, 2020. "I am especially excited about CanCOVID bringing together scientists from basic science to the social sciences, with the potential to address key policy questions in interdisciplinary teams."
One example of how CanCOVID is facilitating interdisciplinary approaches is in the Indigenous-themed channel, moderated by Carrie Bourassa, Scientific Director of the Institute of Indigenous Peoples' Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Already, researchers linked to Indigenous communities in the North, specifically Yellowknife, Behchoko and Fort Smith, are discussing their drive-through COVID-19 testing initiatives, and Morning Star Lodge has been sharing resources relevant to Indigenous communities, including culturally safe fact sheets, videos, and a resource packet entitled 19 Ways for a Healthy Home Fire. As of this morning, ovemer 1000 researchers have joined the CanCOVID network, from Nova Scotia and Ontario, to B.C. and the Northwest Territories.
"As Canada's research community mobilizes in response to COVID-19, CanCOVID will play an important role in bringing our nation's best minds to bear on this challenge," said Dr. Gilles Patry, Executive Director of the U15 Group of Canadian Universities. U15 is one of the many organizations working behind the scenes to facilitate the CanCOVID response, alongside Canada's Departmental Science Advisor Network, stakeholders from the federal and provincial governments, funding agencies, industry, academia from across Canada, non-profit, indigenous communities, hospitals, and clinics.
While those who are working on the COVID-19 front lines have found themselves working around the clock to steer financial resources, equipment and supplies, information, and expertise to the people who need it most, the unexpected COVID-19 shutdown has left many scientists from other sectors locked out of their labs.
Given the imperative to get the CanCOVID platform functional as quickly as possible, researchers from other sectors are lending their leadership and skills to the CanCOVID response. Among them are Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Science Advisor Dr. Sarah Gallagher, Compute Ontario Board Chair Dr. Mark Daley, and University of Toronto Vice-President of International Partnerships and Scientific Director of the AGE-WELL NCE Dr. Alex Mihailidis, all of whom are leading the CanCOVID implementation effort.
"We need to have people outside healthcare working on this effort. Healthcare professionals and health researchers are at the centre of COVID-19 activity and can't answer all the calls," said Dr. Gallagher. "This has been a team effort, with a core group of people working very hard to make things happen quickly. We went from a recognized need to launching the platform in under two weeks. We came together because something needed to be done, and we got the support from our universities and federal agencies to focus on this effort."
To Join the CanCOVID Network
The CanCOVID network is by invitation, and is restricted to verified members of the COVID-19 expert research and response community. This includes, for example, researchers with recognized expertise in:
- Vaccines and Therapeutics
- Fundamental Science
- Clinical trials
- Cohort studies
- Social and behavioural sciences
- Policy decision-making
- Indigenous knowledge
- Medical devices
- Patient perspectives
- Community health
To be considered a recognized expert, you must have professional affiliation with a university, hospital, clinic, government office, non-profit association or business.