COVID-19 Biomedical Expert Panel

About

Coordinated by Rice University, the COVID-19 Biomedical Expert Panel has been convened to assist local policymakers, public health agencies, and government officials with the development of evidence-based responses to the local COVID-19 epidemic. Access to a nonpartisan multidisciplinary panel of scientific and medical experts is a crucial resource for the successful management of the challenges associated with COVID-19. Given the anticipated long-term trajectory of the COVID-19 crisis, decision makers must have all the tools necessary to make well-informed choices during these difficult and unprecedented times. The panel will provide as-needed science-informed responses and recommendations tailored to the population-specific challenges of the Greater Houston area and surrounding municipalities.

Support from the Texas Policy Lab:
The Texas Policy Lab, a research center in Rice University’s School of Social Sciences that was founded to develop and carry out a collaborative, independent, and policy-driven research agenda with its government partners, will help operationalize the panel. Dr. E. Susan Amirian, the lead of Lab’s health program has brought the panel together, and the Lab’s health team will serve to support the panel under her oversight.

Who are the panel members?

Our panel members are nationally and internationally recognized experts who have volunteered to serve our community in this important capacity. Dr. Stephen Spann, the founding dean of the College of Medicine and vice-president for Medical Affairs at the University of Houston, will chair the committee.

Panel Members:

Who the panel serves

The panel is available to serve the greater Houston metro area (including Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery, Brazoria, Galveston, Liberty, Waller, and Chambers Counties) by request of any eligible entity in this region, which may include health departments, social services organizations, school administrators, policymakers, or elected officials. The expert panel will provide customized information that can be used to supplement local health department or CDC guidelines.

Strategy and Example Questions

Guidance from the panel will be provided free of charge to eligible entities involved in the local COVID-19 response. Panel members will convene monthly to support a maximum of 4 questions or requests per month for the next 18-24 months or until there is no longer a need for its services.

Due to the rapidly evolving situation around COVID-19 and its expected long-term trajectory, there are still many urgent questions remaining that can be posed to the panel as the pandemic progresses. Examples of such questions include:

  • How to design efficient public health surveillance plans for long-term use
  • How to increase testing capacity and access for underserved communities
  • How best to balance disease mitigation efforts with rising public anxiety
  • Whether novel mitigation strategies can be designed that seek to minimize economic impact

The Process

Eligible entities may submit questions via our online submission form found here. To contact us for other purposes, please email covidpanel@rice.edu.

After your request has been submitted, you will receive email confirmation of its receipt from the panel coordinator, generally within 48 hours. This email will explain how the question will be processed. Questions with high urgency and complexity will be escalated to the panel, while other questions will be managed by the Texas Policy Lab health team through their standard process. If a large volume of simultaneous questions or requests are received, the Chair and the Operational Lead will prioritize questions based on their potential impact using a previously developed algorithm. In this instance, some questions or requests will be deferred or not chosen for response, instead directing the submitter to alternative experts or resources, as available.

Approved questions or requests will be submitted to the full panel to undergo selection of a panel response team based on the question topic and panel member expertise. The submitter will then receive a second email notification providing a tentative response time. Once a response is available, the panel coordinator will deliver the response to the submitter, at which time the submitter will be given the option to discuss the response with the appropriate panel members if further clarification is needed. If the submitter has questions on a different COVID-related topic, a new request will need to be initiated.

Media Inquiries

All media inquiries for the panel or the Texas Policy Lab’s health team should be directed to Amy McCaig (amym@rice.edu).