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Building Bridges between Science and Decision-Making: the Success of the Multidisciplinary Collaborative Group during the COVID-19 Pandemic


Antoni Plasencia, director general of ISGlobal, and Jaume Padrós, president of the Barcelona Medical Association (COMB), take stock of the GCMSC's almost three years of activity and welcome its continuity.


During the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the large amount of new scientific evidence being generated daily at a global level, and the lack of a tool to analyse and synthesise this knowledge in an agile way, made it difficult for public authorities to respond. This was particularly evident in the health system, which was overwhelmed by the speed and scale of events.

Under these circumstances, in September 2020, ISGlobal and the Official Medical Association of Barcelona (COMB), with the support of the Catalan Association of Research Entities (ACER), promoted the creation of the Multidisciplinary Collaborative Group for the Scientific Monitoring of COVID-19 (GCMSC) as an alternative to improve the interaction between scientific knowledge and the decisions of public authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, given that there was room for improvement in this regard in Catalonia at that time.

A dedicated, committed and generous group

Professionals with an outstanding scientific profile and a multidisciplinary perspective were sought to form the GCMSC. Sílvia de Sanjosé (epidemiologist, ISGlobal and consultant to the National Cancer Institute of the United States) and Josep Maria Miró (infectiologist, Hospital Clínic - University of Barcelona) were invited as chair and vice-chair of the group. All GCMSC members worked in an agile, collaborative and innovative way, demonstrating a generous commitment and dedication to the effort of synthesising all the available scientific information and translating it into an informative language. They did not hide the uncertainties and limitations of what was known at any given time. The ultimate aim was to add value to this evidence and to respond to the most urgent and relevant challenges that arose: for example, on vaccination, new variants or the impact of long Covid.

Their work has resulted in 16 reports and communiqués, which have been submitted to the highest levels of the Health conselleria prior to public dissemination, and are fully accessible online. These interactions were characterised by the full respect and availability of the health authorities to consider the potential implications of the findings. In addition, these documents had significant impact in the media, with the participation of some GCMSC members.

Scientific advice, a good governance practice

With the creation of the COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Committee (CCAC), set up by the Catalan Government in September 2021, the GCMSC entered a new phase in which it offered its skills and experience to the Committee, while maintaining its independence. To date, it has continued to provide complementary contributions to those of the CCAC in a coordinated manner.

Both ISGlobal and the COMB are very pleased and grateful to have successfully launched this initiative and for its continuity after more than three years.

We hope that one of the lessons learned from the response to the pandemic will be the importance of having high quality, agile mechanisms and processes in place to analyse and translate the best scientific evidence in close collaboration with public authorities, and to communicate it in a clear and credible way.

The way forward

After consultation with the members of the GCMSC, it was decided to keep the group active to continue to provide answers to some of the questions that are still relevant: the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to circulate and poses health and public health challenges to which we must adapt.

We have no doubt that, sooner or later, new health crises, whether global or local, will emerge, requiring innovative, agile and effective forms of interaction and collaboration between research and public action. We trust that this experience will serve as a benchmark of good practice to address these challenges more effectively, and we will remain committed to facilitating initiatives and mechanisms such as the one we are celebrating today.

Many thanks to all the research and technical staff who contributed to the group, with special thanks to Josep Maria Antó for his decisive contribution to the formulation of the initial proposal and to Josep Maria Samitier for his support from ACER, as well as to the other staff from the participating institutions.