COVID-19 Research

Frequently asked questions

word coronavirus on black background

Why do we need research into COVID-19?

Research is a vital strand of the government’s strategy to stop COVID-19. As COVID-19 is a new disease we need to find out as much as we can about it, as quickly as possible. We can only answer questions about COVID-19 with research. 

Not all research into COVID-19 is research into treatment, a diagnosis or a vaccine. Some research is studying the progress of COVID-19 so we can understand it better or look at the effects of social distancing on the spread of coronavirus or on people’s well-being. All types of research are important in helping us to understand and beat COVID-19.

What research is happening around COVID-19?

Lots of people have ideas for new research to help us understand and stop COVID-19. Given that the health and care system has limited resources and capacity, it is important to prevent duplication of effort and to make sure that only the most promising research takes place.  For this reason, the NIHR has worked with the Government and other funders to establish a new single, national process that will allow the Chief Medical Officer for England and other expert advisors to prioritise the COVID-19 studies which hold the most potential for tackling the challenges we face. Some, but not all, of the nationally-prioritised research is funded or supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). 

To see the latest list of the government’s nationally prioritised COVID-19 research visit the NIHR website.

Will COVID-19 affect other research?

Yes, unfortunately a lot of other research (also referred to as “studies”) is being affected by the need to respond to COVID-19. Some staff are being moved to other roles to look after patients and to cover staff sickness. Appointments for planned care are being postponed, and people who don’t need urgent care for COVID-19 are being asked not to attend healthcare settings as much as possible.

Researchers and healthcare professionals will always very carefully consider the impact on patients and research participants before they make any changes to studies. They will work with local healthcare teams to continue to give patients involved with studies the care they need.  If you are involved in a study which is affected and have any concerns, please contact your study team or your health professional directly. 

Please be aware that research teams and health and care professionals may have changed roles or be harder to reach as they help with the NHS response to COVID-19. They will do all they can to make sure patients have the best care possible at this time, and that we can take forward any research that has been paused once this period has passed.

Who can take part in research into COVID-19?

The priority at the moment is for people in hospital, intensive care units and higher risk patients in the community who are being cared for in relation to COVID-19 to have the opportunity to take part.

For everyone else, there are many other important ways that you can help the national effort to fight COVID-19, including following vital NHS and Public Health England advice on preventing the spread of COVID-19, taking care of yourself and others, and volunteering for the NHS or local community efforts. (There might also be COVID-19 studies that you can take part in online, as well as opportunities to get involved in planning and designing non-covid-19 research).

Each study into COVID-19 will have clear criteria about who can take part, to help answer the questions that we have about the treatment or area under investigation. This might mean for example they are only looking for people with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in intensive care, without any other conditions for example. Any studies that are both nationally prioritised and are looking for public volunteers will be shared on this website.

If you are interested in research about other health conditions, besides COVID-19, you can find out about these on this website or Join Dementia Research and People in Research websites.  There might be studies you can take part in online, as well as studies that you may be able to take part in in future. There are also many ways you can learn about health research, including on this site, and through joining the NIHR’s free online course: What is health research?. Read more about how to take part in research.

How long will it take to find a vaccine and treatment and is the research safe?

NIHR is working as quickly as possible, across the country and with international partners, to make progress on vaccines, tests and treatments; sharing information and resources. You can read more about studies on the NIHR website.

Safety and effectiveness are highly important in the development of any new vaccination or drug study and the UK has robust mechanisms in place to ensure studies are of high quality. You can find out more about how research is regulated to ensure it is safe. Some changes have been made in the way that COVID-19 research is approved and regulated, to help it deliver on a faster timeframe than normal. 

What will taking part in coronavirus research involve?

There are many different types of research. To understand more about what’s involved in a particular study, have a look at the study information. To learn more about how research is designed visit what happens on a study.

I want to help COVID-19 research but can't find a study?

We appreciate that the public is keen to support the national effort. At the moment, most of the studies are looking for volunteers from amongst hospital inpatients and might not be seeking healthy volunteers. Although in the future, some studies may need healthy volunteers for COVID-19 research and these will be advertised here.

It might be useful to find out more about being a healthy volunteer to help decide if you want to take part in future in any kind of research. Healthy volunteers can also sign up to the NIHR Bioresource to be considered for involvement in different gene related research studies.

You can sign up to be contacted about opportunities to plan and shape research (for example, reading and commenting on ideas for research) at the People in Research website. There are also other ways to help fight coronavirus besides taking part in research and which are just as important, such as volunteering for the NHS. Many local authorities are also looking for citizen volunteers to help with community efforts.