Suffering from COVID-19 science overload? This UW team wades through the deluge so you don’t have to


Remember early spring, when it felt like we were all plunged into a crash course in epidemiology, heads spinning with terms like “R-naught,” “flatten the curve” and “herd immunity?” Every new nugget of data and scientific insight about the novel coronavirus was headline news, ricocheting from Twitter to technical journals to talking heads.

The wall-to-wall coverage has eased since then, but the pace of discovery hasn’t. Every day, hundreds of new research papers are published or posted about the virus and pandemic, ranging from case studies of single patients to randomized, controlled trials of potential treatments.

It’s a fire hose of information that overwhelms even the most fervent COVID-19 science junkies.

But there’s a way to keep current without having to spend your days and nights clicking through journal websites. For the past five months, a small group of faculty and students at the University of Washington has been wading through the deluge so you don’t have to. Five days a week, the Alliance for Pandemic Preparedness produces the “COVID-19 Literature Situation Report,” which provides a succinct summary of key scientific developments.

“It’s a very distilled version,” said Brandon Guthrie, assistant professor of global health and epidemiology and co-leader of the effort. “What are the most important things (we) need to know that are coming out today?”

A typical report includes a list of key takeaways and summaries of a dozen or so studies, sorted into categories like “testing and treatment,” “transmission” and “public health policy.” There’s also a shortlist of other interesting research, along with links for those who want to delve more deeply.

It’s a quick read and mostly jargon-free in keeping with a target audience that includes not only public health officials, but also politicians, community leaders and the general public. The group also prepares occasional in-depth