Sources I’m relying on to understand COVID-19

Research database - North East Computer Center

I’ve been reading journal papers relating to COVID-19 for a couple of months now. The scientific community has gathered pace at an astonishing rate, and there are hundreds of papers a week now being published, trying to understand different bits of the problem. Amongst all this there are positive advances, and I’ve been posting some of this each day in ‘moments of reprieve’ on my facebook feed. But not everyone’s on facebook, so they’re also available from here. For each one I’ve tried to include an intelligible summary for a non-specialist audience, and there is always a link to the journal paper itself.

Most of what I’ve read is unintelligibly geeky unless you’ve got a medical background. But there are a few sources that are coming up regularly that I would say are both reliable and easy to read, so I thought it was worth summarising them in one place, because there’s a lot there that I’m not highlighting in ‘moments of reprieve’.  


The BMJ (British Medical Journal) is one of the world’s most prestigious journals. Their blog/opinion site is here. It’s not peer reviewed science, but it represents what some of the world’s leading clinicians, epidemiologists and allied professionals are thinking about and working on at the moment. My favourite posts so far are How can we safely exit lockdown?, This too shall pass and We can do this. The more specialist COVID resources from BMJ are available here and include guidelines for clinicians, and journal papers. All of this is less readable by a non-specialist audience, but gives a sense of what doctors will be referring to when they have time to read.

The Lancet is another of the world’s leading journals. Their COVID resource centre is here. Unlike the BMJ, their stuff for a less specialist readership isn’t handily separated onto a different site, pieces labelled as a comment/editorial/correspondence might be readable. Those labelled as ‘article’ definitely won’t be! My top read from the Lancet over the last couple of months is on remaking the social contract.

BMJ and Lancet are both UK based but world-renowned. If you want the US perspective, the publishers at the top of the pile are JAMA, NEJM and Annals of Internal Medicine. NEJM don’t publish much for the non-specialist audience. The highlight from JAMA is this article on modelling (and its limitations). Most interesting readable bit from Annals is on lessons from history.

The Nuffield Council for Bioethics produces regular and thoughtful blogs relating to COVID-19 that are designed to be read by non-specialists and broaden the scope beyond medical journals. Stuff that I’ve thought was particularly good is what it means to protect the NHS, Following the Science and Trustworthiness.

Nature, and its family of journals are also publishing a lot on COVID-19. The most readable stuff here is all summarised in their Daily Briefing, which you can sign up to receive as an email. It’s a mixture of links to other relatively easy to read articles published elsewhere, and summaries of otherwise unintelligible journal papers.

The Conversation is a UK based site with articles written by academics specifically aimed at a general audience. It covers all sorts of subjects, but at the moment there is an understandable emphasis on COVID-19 with new articles coming out almost daily. This article on how to model a pandemic is interesting.

If you want to know what some of these mega-brains say when they don’t have the moderating force of editors, then Twitter is obviously a good option. Try Richard Horton (Editor in Chief at the Lancet), Anthony Costello (also Lancet) for starters. David King (former chief science advisor, chair of the independent SAGE group), Allyson Pollock (professor of public health), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director General of the WHO) and Elias Mossialos (Prof of Health Policy at LSE) are also worth a browse.

12/5/20: I’ve not finished this list of sources, and I’m aware of its very Western bias! I do intend to update it when I have time.

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