By Alexander Olaoye, PhD student, School of Computing, Engineering & Built Environment, Glasgow Caledonian University
SIREN is an acronym for ‘SARS-COV-2 Immunity & Reinfection Evaluation’. The SIREN Study, a unique UK-wide, large-scale study of NHS healthcare workers, is led by the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA), providing an agile response to an evolving pandemic . The study was established in June 2020 to investigate participants’ immune responses to COVID-19 infection in order to understand the effectiveness of antibodies in preventing or controlling the disease. I was recruited to be part of the Glasgow Caledonian University Research Group for Safeguarding Health through infection Prevention (SHIP) to work on the SIREN study in Scotland. I began working for the SIREN Study on the 3rd of May 2022. My role was part-time to cover for the Data Coordinator who was on maternity leave. The first few weeks were a series of training sessions for me to get familiar with the study and understand the working processes. The training sessions helped me to understand the working processes and familiarise with how to work in a healthcare research team since I came from an engineering background.
My primary role was to assist with the data management. I was given work instructions and timelines for the regular tasks I was required to complete. The tasks I took the lead on were producing a weekly report of which participants were testing positive for COVID-19 and monthly reports of which samples needed to be forwarded to the sequencing laboratories for study sites, and monthly reports and graphs of how many participants had withdrawn from the study, for the Project Manager. These tasks were mainly straightforward to conduct with the guidance and support offered by the Project Manager. If I found any of these to be more complex initially, the Project Manager would complete the task and allow me to shadow them.
During my duty as an interim Data Coordinator, I also worked on other tasks such as a transfer audit, which was to investigate the accuracy of the number of transfers on record and to identify any missing records. I also assisted with covering the study shared mailbox when another member of the team was on annual leave. This involved helping sites to process events of interest, postal swab results, shipment of samples to UKHSA and transfer of participants between sites. Again, this role was straightforward due to the work instruction created by the staff member I was covering and the opportunity I had to shadow them before they went on leave.
Research during a pandemic gives an opportunity to collect important data that can contribute to improving pandemic control measures, such as conducting clinical or vaccine trials, and avoid future pandemics. Research helps to improve global coordination and leadership, provides an effective structure for pandemic preparedness and response, and justifies the need for investment in the infrastructure to monitor and respond to such threats to public health. The SIREN Study is one of the largest COVID studies in the world, so it was an experience I was glad to be part of. It was a privilege to be able to contribute to achieving the aims of the study and to be part of the successes of the study. The study has answered numerous questions over the last two years. The major questions answered are, (1) the occurrence of reinfection from COVID-19; (2) the extent of protection that antibodies offer; (3) the effectiveness of the vaccine and (4) how long it takes the vaccine to begin protection . The SIREN Study has also taken on an increased role in surveillance and is providing regular reports to the government at this point when universal testing has been reduced.
Being part of the SIREN Scotland Study has been a new experience for me. It has equipped me with transferable skills and new knowledge. These include understanding how to work in a collaborative study, understanding how to work in a clinical research team, understanding more about the Scottish NHS Health Boards and extending my knowledge of data management.
- The SIREN study: answering the big questions – UK Health Security Agency [online]. ukhsa.blog.gov.uk. Available from: https://ukhsa.blog.gov.uk/2021/03/11/the-siren-study-answering-the-big-questions/
- The SIREN study: Two years on – UK Health Security Agency [online]. ukhsa.blog.gov.uk. [cited 2022 Sep 27]. Available from: https://ukhsa.blog.gov.uk/2022/06/20/the-siren-study-two-years-on/