St Andrews-Bonn Virtual COVID-19 Roundtables
On 17 November, the University of St Andrews and the University of Bonn jointly held their first virtual research roundtables. A social sciences roundtable and a medical sciences roundtable were hosted virtually by Scotland House Brussels and featured researchers from both institutions who have been undertaking innovative COVID-19 related research.
The roundtables coincided with a number of other events and meetings taking place virtually in Brussels, which aimed to highlight the university’s strategic partnership with Bonn and reaffirmed our commitment to building strong relationships in Europe. An expert panel on multi-disciplinary responses to the pandemic was also held on the same day, with moderators of the roundtables having opportunity to meet with the panellists over lunch to update them about the morning’s discussions.
Social Sciences Roundtable
The social sciences roundtable was moderated by Dr Christos Lynteris (Social Anthropology), who is a medical anthropologist investigating zoonoses and infectious disease epidemics. He is currently the Principal Investigator of the Wellcome Trust funded project: “The Global War Against the Rat and the Epistemic Emergence of Zoonosis”.
Other participants from St Andrews included Dr Paloma Gay y Blasco (Social Anthropology), whose research projects focus on the impact of COVID-19 on Romani communities and elderly populations in Scotland and Spain; Dr Fergus Neville (Management) who is Co-I on a UKRI-funded project titled “Facilitating the public response to COVID-19 by harnessing group processes”; and Dr Ife Okafor-Yarwood (Geography & Sustainable Development) who is currently researching the gendered implications of fisheries crime and COVID-19 on livelihoods in West Africa.
Participants from the University of Bonn included Prof Dr Kristina Großmann and Dr Nicole Weydmann (Department of Southeast Asian Studies) who are jointly researching the growing radicalisation related to COVID-19 and the field of medicine in Germany and Indonesia; Jun-Prof Dr Maximilian Mayer (Institute for Political Science and Sociology) who is researching governmental responsiveness to the pandemic; and Dr Emmanuel Nshakira Rukundo (Institute for Research and Food and Resource Economics) who is exploring the COVID-19 shock in selected African countries from multiple perspectives.
An engaging and lively discussion took place between the participants, and the following areas of synergy were identified: vulnerable and risk groups, the concept of crisis, impact and perceptions of epidemic control, and the question of how the pandemic unsettles methodological certainties.
Reflecting on the roundtable, Dr Christos Lynteris commented:
“The social sciences roundtable highlighted the rich synergies between COVID-19 related projects at St Andrews and Bonn, and the potential for future collaboration. For these projects share not simply themes or regions, but more importantly, the common purpose of facing the epistemological and methodological challenges of the pandemic so that new ways of understanding and practicing interdisciplinarity and socially responsible research may flourish.”
Medical Sciences Roundtable
The second of our roundtables focused on the medical sciences; the session was moderated by Dr Elisabeth Jurack, Press and Public Relations Officer for the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation at the University of Bonn.
The participants from St Andrews included Dr Catherine Adamson (Biology) who is working on a number of research projects which aim to determine strategies to prevent the transmission or replication of SARS-CoV-2; Dr Muge Cevik, (Medicine) who is exploring the differences in transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by age, symptom status, duration of exposure and household size; and Dr Petri Rautiala (Biology) who is currently working on a project that aims to model the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 virulence.
Bonn researchers included Dr Fotis Karagiannis (Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology), who is researching the role of ketogenesis in anti-viral defense in the context of COVID-19; Prof Dr Jonathan Schmid-Burgk (Functional Immunogenomics) whose research project, Lamp-seq, aims to explore population-scale COVID-19 diagnostics using combinatorial barcoding; and Dr Bianca Schulte (Virology) who is working on the longitudinal SARS-CoV-2 antibody response and natural protection study (NAPro) in the Heinsberg cluster outbreak cohort.
The session clearly highlighted the dynamic and groundbreaking medical research being undertaken at both institutions in response to the pandemic. The diverse research backgrounds represented at the roundtable also resulted in promising discussions about future collaborative research.
The main overlapping topics included how household infection can lead to different symptoms and different viral loads between household members, as well as population-wide screening methods of a corona infection and the use of labelling techniques.
Dr Elisabeth Jurack noted:
“The medical sciences roundtable was a great success in terms of bringing together researchers from Bonn and St. Andrews in various different fields concerning the coronavirus pandemic. The fruitful discussion led to interesting new collaboration possibilities. I highly enjoyed being a part of that discussion.”
We expect discussions to continue between the participants of the roundtables, which will no doubt lead to further strengthening of research connectivity between Bonn and St Andrews.