Among the projects are vital questions about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, a study of long-COVID and a national study to understand differences in susceptibility and risk factors between ethnic groups. Another will use linked datasets to understand transmission of COVID-19 in schools.

A total of 47 applications were submitted following the two-week competition and the successful projects were selected by an independent panel that included clinicians, academics and patient and public representatives. Criteria for assessment included the proposed benefits to patients and the public and how the research would improve data for future studies.

The projects will form part of the larger Data and Connectivity National Core Study. This study is led by Health Data Research UK in partnership with the Office for National Statistics and enables access to health and administrative data from across the UK and provides the infrastructure for vital data research.  The 12 projects will join the study in January and will be expected to complete by the end of June 2021.

All projects are expected to leave a legacy for future research studies by enhancing the value of data by, for example, creating additional data linkages, improving the quality of data and following best practice in open science, sharing code and tools. Each will be required to engage and involve patients and the public in their work and use the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway to share resources with other researchers.

The 12 successful projects are:

Irene Higginson, King’s College London

Area of focus: palliative care
Research questions to be addressed: What is the relationship between regional COVID-19 palliative care responses and COVID-19 prevalence, mortality, admissions, discharges; business / social impacts?

Till Hoffmann, Imperial College London

Area of focus: surveillance and epidemiology
Research questions to be addressed: How can National Core Studies healthcare data be connected with wastewater surveillance of COVID-19 in a privacy-preserving fashion to inform epidemiological models and democratise data access?

Trisha Greenhalgh, University of Oxford

Area of focus: long-COVID
Research questions to be addressed: Can phenotypes developed from enhanced remote primary care assessment of COVID-19 be used to identify a cohort of community cases, and enable comparison of recovered and long COVID?

Kevin Wyche, University of Brighton

Area of focus: transmission and environment
Research questions to be addressed: Is exposure to airborne fine and ultrafine particulate matter a determining factor in COVID-19 infection and outcome within the UK?

Paul Elliott, Imperial College London

Area of focus: surveillance and epidemiology
Research questions to be addressed: Characterise and quantify the biological, social and environmental drivers of medium-term health outcomes following infection with SARS-CoV-2.

Aziz Sheikh, University of Edinburgh

Area of focus: vaccines
Research questions to be addressed: Can we enable harmonised, near real-time, data on pharmacovigilance of COVID-19 vaccines using routinely collected linked national datasets across the UK?

Andrew Hayward, UCL

Area of focus: transmission & environment
Research questions to be addressed: What are the relative contributions of different exposures and settings to COVID-19 community transmission?

Kamlesh Khunti & Professor Tom Yates, University of Leicester

Area of focus: ethnicity
Research questions to be addressed: What are the key risk factors, effect modifiers and mediators of the excess risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and the associated complications of COVID-19 in minority ethnic communities using national linked datasets?

Rachel Denholm, University of Bristol 

Area of focus: transmission & environment
Research questions to be addressed: How do school COVID-19 transmission dynamics differ across studies? 2. Do children experience long-COVID? 3. Do COVID-19 outcomes differ for those with/without symptoms? 4. How common is COVID reinfection?

Julia Hippisley-Cox, University of Oxford

Area of focus: vaccines
Research questions to be addressed: What is the uptake and comparative safety of new COVID vaccines by age, sex, region, ethnicity, comorbidities, medication, deprivation, risk level and evidence of prior COVID infection?

Stephen Machin, London School of Economics

Area of focus: economy
Research questions to be addressed: Economic scarring from the COVID-19 induced crisis: monitoring inequality in economic and education outcomes.

Tracey Warren, University of Nottingham

Area of focus: employment
Research questions to be addressed: How is COVID-19 impacting women and men’s working lives in the UK?

For further information about the Data and Connectivity National Core Study, visit our website here.