Professor Rachel Norman, Dean for Research Engagement and Performance, University of Stirling

For most of us, Covid-19 has come out of the blue and impacted our lives in ways which would have been unimaginable a few months ago. Immediate concerns in the first few weeks of the outbreak were around medical solutions to the disease: Could our health system cope? What drugs can we use to treat the disease? How can we manufacture ventilators more quickly? When will we have a vaccine? These are all important questions and there are many people working on finding the answers. However these are not the only problems that need to be solved in response to the pandemic.

The emergency measures that have been put in place to avoid the transmission of infection have thrown up number of urgent issues which need to be addressed, such as how to protect those in prison from infection, how to ensure vulnerable children and adults suffering from abuse can be protected.

Further fundamental questions remain as we move beyond the strictest lockdown restrictions and take our first, cautious steps to what has been described as a “new normal”. How is coronavirus going to change the world we live in in the longer term? Can we use this as an opportunity to rebuild our societal structures in order to be more sustainable and to reduce inequalities?

At the moment Covid-19 is exacerbating inequalities in society with, on average, the most vulnerable becoming even more so, and women taking on more of the caring responsibilities.  However, some of the measures put in place to combat the spread of the virus provide us with an opportunity to look at how we might restructure to reduce our carbon emissions, increase sustainability, and improve health. The answers to many of these questions will rely on universities to provide sound and reliable academic evidence for the policy decisions which will need to be made.

Researchers at the University of Stirling are working across a wide range of areas which have impact in the real world; this pandemic has highlighted how important many of those areas are both in the short and long term.

In a new series of bite-sized public lectures, our researchers give an overview of how their area of interest has been impacted by Covid-19, and explore the important questions for their field of study as we navigate our way through these difficult times. In doing so, they will highlight the crucial role that research continues to play in tackling society’s greatest challenges, and in underpinning a fair and sustainable recovery.

The lecture series, which is updated regularly, can be accessed via the University’s Public Policy Hub. I hope you find these lectures to be an informative and engaging insight into the valuable work that our researchers undertake, focusing on issues that colour our day to day lives, and making an important contribution to debates around policy and practice.

Professor Rachel Norman

May 2020