Learning more about COVID-19

There’s an overdose of information on the virus – online, on tv, passed round on social media.

We’re a society that prides itself on knowing things, taking rational decisions (ha!), and it’s hard to sit in the middle of uncertainty.

But here we are.

We’re picking links that seem authoritative and clear-headed (though the comments may well not be). We do have science backgrounds (a very long time ago in my case), and we’re being careful, but we’re absolutely not experts.

In any case, it’s worth bearing in mind that with a virus no-one had ever heard of just a few months ago, and with the situation changing so fast – a good part of the work being so carefully done by experts, will turn out to be misleading, irrelevant or even wrong. Science isn’t a matter of uncovering a neatly laid out underlying structure of truth, it’s more like having an army of people try independently to co-write a very complicated story and make sure all the plot threads join up. In particular, predicting what will happen is notoriously difficult. But it has to be done in order to help us prepare and cope.

That said, you might like to look at these:

New Scientist has a weekly podcast – free to listen – that has an update on the lastest science information about the virus, its effects and how we might bring it under control:

 https://www.newscientist.com/podcasts/

A Free course about COVID-19 and the responses:

FutureLearn has one from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine:

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/covid19-novel-coronavirus

It’s free, and it starts on Mar 23rd. (You can start after that, though.)

It’s intended for ordinary people who want to understand more about the virus and the issues around it. It’s not aimed at medical professionals, etc – there are specific courses for them.

You’ll find other free courses and blogs on FutureLearn. In general courses are free for 4 weeks (which gives you time to complete them), after that you need to pay for access. The one above however will remain free.

 

New Scientist

has interesting and useful information, takes a wide perspective and is frequently updated. It has a readable accessible style but is carefully written and fact-checked:

https://www.newscientist.com/

Its front page currently has its latest news on COVID-19. It is a subscription magazine, but if you click the ‘free’ tab in the right hand column, you will find some free articles on COVID-19 (along with some fascinating things that are completely unrelated).

At the time of writing (19 Mar), there is a daily round up of COVID-19 news here – its name changes with the latest news, just have a look at the relevant articles and you’ll find it.

Scroll down that page, and you’ll find a collection of useful articles covering practical issues as well as looking at developments and the current thinking.

Things are changing very fast – so be aware that articles published in the last couple of days may already have been superseded by events (but they make interesting reading).

Here’s a useful link to start you off:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2237664-coronavirus-what-is-social-distancing-and-how-do-you-do-it

New Scientist also has a daily newsletter if you want to subscribe.

 

World Health Organisation

The WHO has various training videos aimed at professionals in relevant fields.

If you want a clear, non-technical explanation of respiratory viruses, including covid-19, intended for “public health professionals, incident managers and personnel working for the United Nations, international organisations and NGOs” you might find this course interesting.

It’s intended to take about 3 hours, but you might just want to watch the first video, which gives a clear background to the new virus.

Note that this is already a little outdated – it was made before the virus got its covid-19 name. As with all the science information, just be aware that things may have changed since it was written/produced.

It’s free and open to all.

You will need to make a (free) account on the WHO’s course platform. Once you’ve done that, you can also access other related courses (note that these are often more technical, and occasionally are just someone reading out the relevant regulations or guidelines).

https://openwho.org/courses/introduction-to-ncov

 

The Conversation

is a magazine of short articles written by experts – that is people affiliated to a university, a teaching hospital etc. In order to write, they have to state their affiliation, and disclose any funding or relationship that might affect their views.

They write for free, and they write in large numbers. Some of the most interesting conversations about the science of covid-19, the emotional, economic, political and environmental effects, and how to stay safe and sane – are happening here.

Unsurprisingly, these experts don’t always agree!

But they tend to the sane, thoughtful, and knowledgeable.

At a time when many ‘celebrities’ seem to think their role is to spread the latest gossip/rumour/nonsense, it’s good to listen in on experts sharing knowledge and ideas, changing their minds (!), and learning from each other.

I would say that the comments range from the extremely thoughtful and enlightening to the usual trolls (who for some reason think their role in life is to be as annoying as possible), but that’s comments for you. Take them with a big pinch of salt 🙂

theconversation.com

And if you’re interested in the discussions going on elsewhere, there are also editions for other English-speaking countries, and at least one in French, and another in Spanish.

I would particularly recommend the global perspectives – at this time, it’s particularly helpful to have a sense of how other places are affected, and what they’re doing…

 https://theconversation.com/global

And of course, there are other pressing issues beyond the pandemic!