The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) has helped launch two additional corona research projects, including one project co-funded by the State of Tyrol. In her Ischgl follow-up study, epidemiologist Katherine Bates (Medical University of Innsbruck) is investigating the type and the persistence of symptoms following a COVID-19 infection. Theatre scholar Silke Felber (University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna) is focusing on the political and cultural implications of SARS-CoV-2 and analysing the paradoxical (in-)visibility women are experiencing in the face of the current crisis.
“A functioning combination of insights from basic research, applied research, and clinical studies plays a key role in corona research. Each individual contribution from the wide range of scientific and scholarly disciplines is an important part of the global efforts to tackle the pandemic and can bring us one step closer to conquering the disease”, said FWF Vice-President Gregor Wiehs, speaking about the situation of corona research around the world. More than one hundred COVID-19-related proposals have been submitted to the FWF so far, of which 14 urgent funding projects totalling nearly €6 million in funding have been approved, with an average processing time of two months.
Follow-up study in the region where the virus first appeared in Austria
With the Ischgl follow-up study, an urgent funding project has been approved that focuses on the region where the coronavirus first appeared in Austria. Demographer and epidemiologist Katherine Bates of the Department of Medical Statistics, Informatics and Health Economics of the Medical University of Innsbruck will continue to work on the Ischgl Study, a population-based cohort study led by Dorothee von Laer, director of the Institute of Virology of the Medical University of Innsbruck, which began in April 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The study has shown that 42 percent of the inhabitants of Ischgl had developed antibodies to the coronavirus, which suggests that they were infected with the virus at some point. Katherine Bates is working together with Hanno Ulmer, head of the Department of Medical Statistics, as well as the Institute of Virology of the Medical University of Innsbruck and is leading a subproject of the Ischgl study. The project has studied the inhabitants of Ischgl at intervals of six and twelve months since April to determine the type and persistence of symptoms following a COVI-19 infection. In addition, the study also endeavours to gain insights into the other health-related, social, and economic impacts the pandemic has had on the community.
The urgent funding project of Katherine Bates is co-funded by the State of Tyrol. “The SARS-CoV-2 virus has caused a worldwide pandemic and has pushed the healthcare systems of many different countries to their limits. Austria and, above all, the State of Tyrol have been affected by this pandemic since relatively early on. The crucial thing for me is to prevent the healthcare system from reaching the breaking point. Science makes an important contribution to fighting this pandemic. The study already undertaken on Ischgl serves as the basis for this follow-up study and offers a unique opportunity to compare the health, well-being, and socio-economic impact of COVID-19 sufferers. In addition, the study deals with unresolved questions concerning COVID-19 reinfection”, said State Member of Parliament Bernhard Tilg. And he emphasised that “the more we know about the virus, the better we can react to new challenges in the crisis. Therefore, it is especially important for me, as the State Councillor for Health and Economy, that the State of Tyrol provide the best possible support to the research work on SARS-CoV-2”.
The (in-)visibility of women in the corona crisis In her corona research project, theatre scholar Silke Felber of the Institute of Culture Management and Gender Studies of the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna focuses on the political and cultural implications of SARS-CoV-2. She is analysing the paradoxical (in-)visibility women are experiencing in the face of the current crisis. On the one hand, women, as the “unsung heroes” who keep things running, occupy a truly dominant role in the public debate. On the other hand, their underrepresentation as politicians and experts is striking at the moment. Based on this observation, Silke Felber is investigating the measures taken by the Austrian federal government regarding the current crisis and examining the gender-specific roles and stereotypes implemented and reactivated in this context. Together with international cooperation partners, the results of this dramaturgical, discourse analytical, and transdisciplinary study are situated in a historical and global context.
FWF urgent funding: accelerated procedure without compromising quality
In March 2020, as an immediate response to the corona pandemic, the FWF initiated the SARS-CoV-2 urgent funding programme—a fast-track procedure for research proposals that deal with the prevention, early detection, containment, and research of SARS-CoV-2 and especially rely on international cooperation. This also includes projects that focus on the technical, ecological, economic, political, legal, medical, cultural, psychological, or ethical implications of SARS-CoV-2. The current situation calls for the expertise of nearly every domain of basic research.
The Austrian Science Fund FWF
The FWF is Austria’s central funding organisation for basic research as well as arts-based research. Applying international quality benchmarks, the FWF provides funding for outstanding research projects and excellent researchers who work to generate, broaden, and deepen scientific knowledge.