Accessing research information

Australia and New Zealand’s science, research and innovation sectors have united to provide governments with the latest and best evidence as they contain and respond to the COVID19 outbreak. The Rapid Research Information Forum (RRIF) is chaired by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel.

It benefits from operational support and leadership from The Australian Academy of Science, and is a collaboration of research participant organisations that together to rapidly answer pressing questions about COVID-19, as they emerge.

RRIF provides a mechanism to rapidly bring together relevant multidisciplinary research expertise to address pressing questions about Australia’s response to COVID-19, as they emerge.

RRIF enables timely responses to be provided to governments based on the best available evidence. RRIF also informs the Chief Scientist’s interactions and collaboration with other national chief scientific advisers. It demonstrates the critical value of research and innovation in driving societal as well as economic progress now and into the future.

Questions are put to the RRIF by Ministers and other key decision makers, for example to support the work of the Chief Medical Officer, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission.

Since being convened in April 2020, the RRIF has answered a range of questions published in concise reports at the request of Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews, Health Minister Greg Hunt, and Education Minister Dan Tehan and to support the NCCC. 

The growing list of questions includes:

  • Is there evidence for differential learning outcomes for online versus in-class education; what factors moderate the relative effectiveness; and are there distinct implications for students in metropolitan, remote, rural and indigenous communities? 
  • What is the predictive value of serological antibody tests, and are point of care tests comparable to laboratory tests?
  • What impact is the pandemic having and likely to have on Australia’s research workforce and will we have the research workforce capability to support our recovery efforts?
  • What are the most promising vaccines and treatments being developed globally that are regarded as having most promise (including national and international collaborations and consortia), and what are the mechanisms for action for each of these, their stage of development and their strengths and limitations?

Australian Academy of Science President Professor John Shine expressed his delight at the opportunity to submit the knowledge of scientists and other experts to the Australian Government at this critical time.    

“We are in complex and unchartered territory, so it is absolutely appropriate that the independent and multidisciplinary expertise of Australia and New Zealand’s science, research and innovation sectors is being brought to bear.”

“The RRIF demonstrates the strength of evidence-informed decision making and the critical value of research and innovation in driving societal and economic progress,” Professor Shine said.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel said the rapid reports follow a unique format, in which they synthesise the up-to-the-minute evidence base for a single issue informed by relevant experts and are peer reviewed.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving quickly. The RRIF is enabling timely responses to be provided to policymakers based on the best available multidisciplinary evidence.

“The reports of the RRIF are a major collaborative effort across a number of sectors and complement the existing mechanisms of science advice to Government,” Dr Finkel said.

Feature image credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, NIH. Visit the Chief Scientist’s website to access the latest finding on each of the RRIF reports published to date.