Discover some of the ways in which our members have played an important part in discussions of policy and engagement during the pandemic

Brian O’Callaghan specialises in energy finance and has been very active throughout the pandemic, writing journal articles, giving TV and radio news interviews, offering comment to news outlets including Bloomberg, Guardian, Forbes, The Times and New York Times, and contributing advice to senior policymakers.

  • Virtual teaching at Princeton University for the second half of the spring semester.
  • As President of the British Academy moved activity – very successfully – to an entirely virtual existence.
  • Made programmes for BBC Radio 4: Archive Hour on Anthony Blunt and a new series, Behind the Buzzwords

Robert Hortle finished his DPhil in 2020 and has since worked for a consultancy as part of a team for a COVID-19 project with a UK government department. The resulting case study helped the department respond to the longer-term COVID-19effects and the resultant political imperatives while the government managed the peak of the pandemic in the UK. The analysis and tools were an important resource the department will use to enable their sector to recover from the crisis and take advantage of new opportunities.

Professor Maini runs a departmental group under the name cohesion-discuss. As Associate Head for Career Development, he kept in touch with all the heads of research groups to ensure that their students, PDRAs and colleagues were coping with the challenges of lockdown. He also liaised with the social contacts from each group to ensure that online social activities were ongoing to help everyone still feel part of a community.

He has also been a co-leader of Task 4 on the Royal Society’s RAMP – Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic – initiative. Professor Maini co-ordinates the Rapid Review Group with his Oxford Colleague, Alain Goriely. The group was tasked to commission rapid expert assessment of research outputs, reports and codebases nominated directly by SPI-M members, SAGE members, or RAMP Task Team Leaders, and to decide whether these had the combination of scientific importance and policy relevance that merited their consideration by SPI-M/SAGE in their roles as advice channels to the Government.

This meant that they were contacted by scientists and asked to review key research outputs (on a 24-hour, 48-hour turnaround, including weekends), distributing tasks to the appropriate experts amongst the team of approximately 120 experts they had assembled. All this was done in people's ‘free’ time – no funding, just free time the community has given up to help out.

Wrote a paper, ‘The Paradox of Scientific Advice’, that analyses the dynamics of scientific advice in politics. The paper argues that scientific advisory committees face two inherently contradictory demands: on the one hand, they must provide useful advice that is responsive to democratic needs and priorities; on the other hand, they must remain neutral and stay out of politics. After illustrating the tension between these demands on a variety of issues, Dr Pamuk concludes that while this is in some ways an irresolvable dilemma, opening up scientific advice to broader democratic scrutiny and contestation could mitigate its force and improve the use of science for policy purposes.

  • Professor Pandit has written a number of papers relating to COVID-19, including a paper looking at demand‐capacity modelling and identifying themes for future NHS planning, another on the ‘RO’ number and its use, and a look at the use of personal protective equipment.
  • As a Member of Council, Royal College of Anaesthetists, Professor Pandit worked on guidance to plan for restoration of surgical services after the peak pandemic. He also ran two national webinars for the Association of Anaesthetists on personal protection during anaesthesia and on restoring anaesthesia/surgical services post-COVID-19.

Throughout the pandemic, Father Timothy Radcliffe has given lectures, written articles and been interviewed, offering both a human and spiritual perspective on the experience and focusing on its meaning. A list of his activity is on the College website and includes links to articles on ‘Story telling in the face of a pandemic’ and ‘Living in isolation’ as well as to his lecture, ‘Singing from balconies’ for the Ebor Lecture Series in July 2020 which can be found on YouTube.

Karthik Ramanna has responded to COVID-19 with a range of articles on its implications for public policy, including the opportunity to improve Britain’s corporate regulators, the implications of lockdown and reflections on contracting in a time of crisis. He also made a video on how teaching by the case method continued at the Blavatnik School of Government during lockdown.