Covid-19 research wins ‘trustworthy communication’ award

The authors of a Liverpool-led research review that summarised the evidence for using hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 have been honoured with a national communications award.

The inaugural Harding Prize for Useful and Trustworthy Communication was awarded jointly to the Cochrane Review of Hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 and the ONS Covid Infection Survey.

The Winton Centre at the University of Cambridge launched the prize in association with the Science Media Centre and Sense about Science to celebrate individuals or teams who had communicated information in a trustworthy and useful way – that genuinely helped people decide what to do, or help them judge a decision made by others.

The award was judged by five experts, including deputy chief medical officer Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, Helen Boaden of the UK Statistics Authority, and former Nuffield Foundation chairwoman Professor Onora O’Neill.

Commenting on the Cochrane review, the judges said: “As with all its projects, the Cochrane review worked to internationally agreed methodology and prioritised high quality (randomised) evidence. This particular review was a summary of the evidence for the use of hydroxychloroquine in treating Covid-19. Using clear language, it communicated straightforwardly and with balance that that there was no benefit to hydroxychloroquine which outweighed the side effects and that trials of it should be stopped. That decision was then made.

“This subject may seem minor in the UK where treatment by hydroxychloroquine was never a big part of medical discussion. However, many millions of people around the world, especially in the USA and Brazil, were encouraged by their leaders to take this treatment seriously.”

Lead author Dr Bhagteshwar Singh, a Clinical Research Fellow at the University’s Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences, and his co-authors of the Cochrane Review, said: “We are honoured to receive this award. Our aim was to provide clinicians, policymakers and the public with a balanced, trustworthy, and clear account of the potential benefits and harms of hydroxychloroquine when used for COVID-19. This award confirms that our review was communicated clearly and transparently, which we are thrilled to hear.”