UQ scholars advise government on COVID-19 recovery

12 May 2020

In April 2020, four UQ Global Change Scholars collaborated with leading researchers from UQ and other Group of Eight (Go8) universities to produce the Roadmap to Recovery report – an independent report aimed at addressing the most pressing question of our times: how can Australian society recover from COVID-19?

The taskforce comprised a diverse range of scholars including epidemiologists, infectious disease consultants, public health specialists, healthcare professionals, mental health and wellbeing practitioners, Indigenous scholars, communications and behaviour change experts, ethicists, sociologists, philosophers, political scientists, economists and business scholars.

Using a collaboration platform from the University of Melbourne's Hunt Laboratory for Intelligence Research, the taskforce submitted evidence-based recommendations and provided analytic reasoning to rapidly produce the report in less than three weeks.

Each member was assigned pseudonyms like 'quoll260' and 'crocodile715' in an effort to reduce social dominance effects and democratise input. 

Global Change Scholars Anna Hickling, Yawei Jiang, Bernadette Hyland-Wood and Roberto Schurch agreed that the collaboration platform allowed early career researchers to rise up and confidently take on critical roles in the production of the report.

“The SWARM platform allowed me to work alongside senior academics as equals on the report," Ms Hickling said.

"My unique perspective and skills were valued, and I gained new competencies in leadership and policymaking that I plan to draw on again in the future.”

Similarly, Ms Jiang said the platform gave her confidence to share her ideas.

“With the anonymous approach on the platform, I felt more confident in sharing my ideas and thoughts and had a higher sense of participation in the group,” Ms Jiang said.


UQ Global Change Scholars take on COVID-19 challenge
UQ Global Change Scholars (from left): Anna Hickling, Bernadette Hyland-Wood, Roberto Schurch and Yawei Jiang.


Ms Hickling, Ms Jiang, Ms Hyland-Wood and Mr Schurch are PhD candidates participating in the UQ Global Change Scholars Program — an initiative that aims to produce future research leaders attuned to global trends and challenges.

Hailing from Australia, China, the United States and Chile, and with research spanning clinical psychology, government data policy, education, and business recovery and resilience,, their diverse backgrounds added valuable perspectives to the independent report presented to Australian Government policymakers on 27 April 2020.

Mr Schurch said the experience provided an unparalleled opportunity to contribute to an issue of national and global significance.

“As a UQ Global Change Scholar and former public servant, I felt called to collaborate on this initiative," Mr Schurch said.

"There is nothing more global, threatening and systemic than the COVID-19 pandemic, and our response as researchers should be multidisciplinary and multi-institutional."

Ms Jiang said the experience was "a great opportunity to work with and exchange thoughts with experts all around Australia through a collaboration platform."

"It was my first time producing a report in three weeks with 100+ people, which made me very proud to be part of the taskforce," Ms Jiang said.

The Go8 initiative also allowed the team to develop their transferable skills that are critical for their futures.

“While my data collection in Australia regarding how evidence influences policymaking remains frozen, this taskforce allowed me to have great firsthand experience in the field," Mr Schurch said.

"Curiously, while under lockdown, I had the most collaborative experience since I started my PhD."

Ms Hickling said the experience had taught her how to apply her research in new ways.

"My PhD taught me how to research, but participating in initiatives such as the Roadmap to Recovery taskforce taught me how to apply my research skills to directly help the public in real time," Ms Hickling said.

"This experience reinforces why I want to be a researcher."

Ms Hyland-Wood said contributing to the report was "an extraordinary experience to work on a project of national significance".

Since the Roadmap to Recovery report was released, Ms Hyland-Wood has leveraged her UQ media training and provided interviews with national media outlets. As a result of the project, she is now working with several members of the Go8 taskforce on a forthcoming journal article on public trust, transparency and civic engagement during the era of COVID-19.

The Global Change Scholars team would like to thank the UQ Graduate School and the executive leadership team for putting them forward to participate in the Go8 initiative.

Contact: Anna Hickling, anna.hickling@uq.net.au; Bernadette Hyland-Wood, b.hylandwood@uq.edu.au; Yawei Jiang, yawei.jiang@uq.net.au; Roberto Schurch, r.rschurchsantana@uq.edu.au.

Read more about UQ's COVID-19 research capability.