With schools across the UK due to close this week, the impact on the daily lives of students and young people of the COVID-19 outbreak is clear. We wanted to do a little analysis to look at what young people are concerned about, what are they asking?
Finding ourselves in the midst of the March I’m a Scientist (IAS) and I’m an Engineer (IAE) events, means that for the past few weeks, young people across the UK and Ireland have had the opportunity to ask any questions they like to groups of scientists and engineers.
Students have asked 5,792 questions. 419 (7%) of those have been related to the COVID-19 outbreak. (That’s looking at questions mentioning “Coronavirus”, “COVID-19”, “virus”, “outbreak”, “pandemic”, etc, and various spellings therein.)
There is variation by zone theme. In IAE, the Health Zone saw the highest proportion of related questions (12%), while in IAS, general (non-themed) zones tended to have higher proportions of related questions than zones linked to a specific theme; 22% in Nihonium, 15% in Copernicium, while themed zones, Energy and Molecule have only 3% each.
With 100 questions, the Medical Research Zone has seen the largest number of questions related to the outbreak (18% of total in the Zone).
The word cloud gives an idea of what young people are asking about:
Most commonly, students are asking for the scientists’ opinions, and about finding a cure:
What do you think about the Corona virus? — Student, MRC Zone, March 2020
can you find a cure for the corornavirus? — Student, Nihonium Zone, March 2020
when do you think we will find a cure for the corona virus — Student, MRC Zone, March 2020
Do you think it is ok to harm animals to find a cure for the coronavirus — Student, Flerovium Zone, March 2020
Questions have also looked at where the virus came from, and how it is spreading:
what started the corona virus — Student, MRC Zone, March 2020
Could you catch coronavirus from a dead person? — Student, Nihonium Zone, March 2020
Other students are wondering how serious the outbreak is, and whether the media’s response is accurate, as well as asking the scientists’ opinions on government response:
is the corona virus serious — Student, Molecule Zone, March 2020
Is coronavirus as bad as the news makes it seem? — Student, Copernicium Zone, March 2020
Is Covid-19 as bad as it is made out to be by the media? — Student, Moscovium Zone, March 2020
do you think the government/ borris Johnson should be doing more to reduce/prevent the effects of covid 19 — Student, Livermorium Zone, March 2020
How are they solving the symptons and cures for corona virus and what do you think about Boris’ decision to keep school opened at this current moment in time? — Student, Moscovium Zone, March 2020
Students are concerned about what happens next, and whether — or how much — things will get worse, before they get better:
can the corona virus turn into something worse? — Student, Molecule Zone, March 2020
Do u think the crona virus will get worse or they will find a cure? — Student, Environment Zone, March 2020
do you think coronavirus will wipe out half the worlds population. — Student, Particles Zone, March 2020
Additionally, students have asked thoughtful questions about how the scientists’ work can be related to the outbreak:
do you think you could support research on the coronavirus — Student, Health Zone, I’m an Engineer Ireland, March 2020
How will Maths help you get answers to solving the Corona virus? — Student, Nihonium Zone, March 2020
One student in the Space Zone, kept their question on topic:
Would you be able to get the coronavirus in space? — Student, Space Zone, March 2020
Other students have asked about the impacts of the outbreak, and how at-risk people may be:
How do you think that spread of corona virus is affecting mental health of people who do not even have it? — Student, Community Zone, March 2020
Will covid-19 effect people with no health issues? — Student, Nihonium Zone, March 2020
Is covid-19 a threat to people with inhalers? — Student, Nihonium Zone, March 2020
Is it possible to get COVID-19 without any symptoms? — Student, Nihonium Zone, March 2020
This quick analysis offers an idea of the concerns that young people have around the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, more detailed coding of the questions being asked by students would be possible, as well as analysis of questions being asked in live CHATs.