Workshop: Research Response to COVID-19 in the Nordic Countries

4 November 2021 – ONLINE

Wide-ranging experiences and implications for future research and Nordic collaboration


The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that research preparedness and response is essential for an effective response to large-scale crises. The pandemic has underscored how research must be an integral part of the operational response, both for clinical practice and for broader public health interventions.On the one hand, the volume and speed of new research and development have been unprecedented, as has the rapid translation of research into policy and practice. For vaccine development, for example, research preparedness in terms of pre-existing technology, infrastructure, and plans has been critical.

At the same time, many knowledge gaps have remained unaddressed or have been closed only late. In many cases this can be tracked back to low levels of research preparedness. For example, few if any countries were well prepared for facilitating –  or even allowing – robust studies on the effect of public health and social interventions, such as school closures, travel restrictions, and face masks.

In yet other areas, the variation has been pronounced. Some countries had registries, cohorts, and genome sequencing capabilities ready to go when the pandemic hit, while others did not.

We should therefore examine the research response in the Nordic countries to date and consider how we can better prepare for the next crisis. We can learn from similarities as well as differences and from successes as well as failures. These lessons can be useful for the governments, research communities, and other key actors in the Nordic countries and beyond.


Looking back, how did the research response unfold in each of the Nordic countries? What worked well, and what could have worked better? How did the Nordic countries align and differ in their responses? These questions cut across basic research, epidemiology, and interventions research. And they speak not only to the generation of new research, but also the use of this research in policy and practice.

Looking forward, what parts of our systems for research preparedness and response must most critically be improved before the next crisis hits? What can best be promoted through Nordic collaboration? And what are the specific lessons for the field of human genomics and precision medicine?

The objective of the workshop is to examine these questions and next steps.


The first part consists of a set of presentations from each country. First, a speaker will offer an overview of key elements of the response and some preliminary lessons. Second, two speakers will each examine a specific aspect of the research response in more detail.

The second part is a panel discussion reflecting on the presentations, drawing lessons across the countries, and discussing next steps. Nordic collaboration will be highlighted.

4 Nov


18 Speakers

1 Panel

9:00-9:10 CET

Welcome and Key Questions

Hakon Heimer, Executive Officer, NSHG-PM

Kári Stefánsson, President, NSHG-PM; Co-chair of the Organizing/Scientific committee

Camilla Stoltenberg, Co-chair of the Organizing/Scientific committee

9:10-12:40 CET

Country Presentations

Six Nordic country presentations and Q&As

Each country will feature one speaker presenting an overview on the COVID-19 response and two other speakers providing thematic deep dives (5 min each); a Q&A session will conclude each country segment (15 min)

10:40-10:55 CET


12:25-12:40 CET


12:40-13:00 CET

Short Presentations from Submitted Abstracts

Tomoko Nakanishi, McGill University

Age-dependent impact of the major common genetic risk factor for COVID-19 on severity and mortality

Li Lu, University of Oslo

Mental distress before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: latent class trajectory analyses from the Norwegian MoBa cohort

13:00-13:40 CET

Panel and Q&A with Audience

Cross-country lessons, next steps, and future collaboration


Krista Fischer, University of Tartu
Tyra Grove Krause, Statens Serum Institut
Matti Jantunen, Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (ret.)
Kári Stefánsson, deCODE genetics
Camilla Stoltenberg, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Jonas Björk, Lund University

13:50-15:00 CET

E-Poster Session

Poster presenters will be asked to be in their respective e-poster rooms for interaction with the audience.

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