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A 35-page full-colour report was sent out to hundreds of donors as a thank you for their important contributions, and to show them the difference they helped to make during the pandemic.

Medical Sciences researcher in a lab © Sean Elias

During the first lockdown in early 2020, an emergency Coronavirus Research Fund was set up to channel the huge amounts of gifts that started pouring in, and to direct them quickly to the research projects that had the biggest chance of mitigating the worst effects of the pandemic. Between 2020 and 2021 around 1,800 donors contributed millions of pounds to coronavirus-related research that went directly into this fund. The University held four open calls to all researchers across the University to apply for short-term immediate need funding. This was peer-reviewed by an internal panel of senior scientists and University administration. We are proud to say that over the course of those four calls, emergency funding was distributed to 91 research projects relating to COVID-19 across the University.

The Medical Sciences Division has never experienced this kind of support before. It took many team members across the University's Development Office to help us respond to the overflowing support we were receiving, from children raising money by running marathons in their homes, to well-known philanthropists reaching out to support our research. During the height of the pandemic, we kept in touch with our new donors by hosting video calls with senior academics, sending out links to updates on vital research and working with PAD to send out an annual report.

Earlier this year, more than two years on from the start of the pandemic, we felt it was time to provide those 1,800 donors with a bespoke stewardship printed piece, to thank them for their immediate support during the start of the pandemic. Led by Natalie Cutting, Medical Sciences Project Officer, we sent out a survey to the frontline researchers whose vital work was funded by the incredible response to our appeals for emergency funding. The purpose of that survey was to find out what that emergency funding helped discover, the direct impact this had on the world, their personal experiences of working in such extraordinary circumstances, and why Oxford was so successful at delivering swift results. The responses were impressive and touching, and we couldn’t wait to share them with our donors. We would like to send a huge thank you to everyone who contributed and shared their incredible stories with us.

From that survey came the donor report Research at the Outbreak of a Pandemic. We selected a small number of stories to share, covering diverse high-impact projects across various departments and divisions. This 35-page full-colour report was printed and sent out to hundreds of donors as a thank you for their important contributions, and to show them the difference they helped to make. We took this opportunity to introduce them to some of the less well-known faces behind the research, and to make sure our donors felt part of the Oxford COVID-19 research community.

We have been so pleased to see the positive response from those donors who have received it. There have even been new gifts to support ongoing research. While the emergency Coronavirus Research Fund has now closed, donations for research into COVID-19 and other infectious diseases are now being channelled into the newly established Pandemic Sciences Institute.

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