Society for Applied Microbiology response to SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic

12 May 2020

The welfare, health and safety of everyone who contributes to the work of the Society is paramount. With this in mind and following advice from the UK Government and WHO, we have taken the following steps to maintain the safety of our staff team and volunteers during the course of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Supporting our members

During April 2020 we held a number of focus group meetings for members to discuss with us the challenges they are facing as a result of the SARS-CoV-2. We will also be surveying our members to find out how the pandemic has affected their work and life. We will use the feedback we receive from these pieces of work to shape future activities and contribute to evidence-based policy work in our priority areas of microbiology.

We are also exploring various potential grant support opportunities with our members whose work has been disrupted by the pandemic and if you have anything to contribute to these conversations, we welcome your input.

Events

The decision has been taken to cancel or postpone the events we had planned for 2020 or move them online. The first example of our moving a conference online was a result of the reaction of our Early Career Scientists Committee whose Research Symposium was cancelled. Within days of the cancellation, all poster presenters were provided the opportunity to display their posters online and highlight them, and/or a flash presentation, via twitter on the day the Research Symposium had originally been due to take place. We are now exploring options to take many of our scientific events online.

Publishing

In partnership with our publishers, Wiley, we have made all articles which focus on any aspect of SARS-Cov-2 published within the SfAM journals portfolio accessible to all without an embargo period. All these articles are published through fast-track peer review and at no cost to the author to ensure all information which contributes to the current crisis is immediately and freely available.

Policy

Our Policy Subcommittee has identified a number of priority areas as a focus for our policy work to contribute to preparedness for future disease outbreaks. These priority areas will require input from our members to ensure we’re contributing to evidence-based policy making.

The SfAM team

We have equipped all team members to work from home and have provided equipment and furniture to ensure all team members are as secure and comfortable as possible in doing so. Flexible and home-working is something that, prior to lockdown, many of the team were used to doing a few times a week. However, for others working from home was a significant change and, in some cases, a real challenge. The mental health challenges of the current situation are well documented and openly discussed online and amongst the team. To support the team, we provide regular catch-ups, the provision of welfare information and resources and an online ‘room’ for all team members to drop into if they need to feel connected. Throughout the pandemic, the overarching message to the team has been: “You are not working from home, you are living through a pandemic and trying to get some work done. Be kind to yourselves.”

A message from the President and Vice-President:

We have been working alongside the Science media Centre and directly with broadcast and print journalists to convey appropriate messages about SARs-CoV2. These interviews have been covered by a number of members including the current President Mark Fielder (members of his team are working on coronaviruses and disease spillover) and colleagues on the frontline such as Trustee Dr Elaine Cloutman-Green. There have also been opportunities for question and answer sessions with members of the public via BBC local radio stations facilitating direct public engagement in relation to COVID-19 and SARs-CoV-2.

We are aware that many of our members have been working hard to support the management of this crisis, whether through laboratory testing, working on the front line, researching this novel virus or providing evidence and expertise to government organisations. Our industry members including Trustee, Claire Hill, are working to ensure that essential laboratory supplies are available to support frontline testing efforts. Many members, including Trustee Linda Thomas, are also using their skills outside microbiology to help by: sewing masks/scrubs; redirecting their laboratory resources to the manufacture of PPE; assisting with deliveries and other means of support. We would like to sincerely thank all our members who are contributing to the management of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and assure them that we will continue to seek the best ways in which to support them both throughout and following these challenging times.