Challenge Questions Initiative


The COVID-19 Challenge Questions Initiative has been established by Ontario's Ministry of Health to help ensure that researchers accessing the Ontario Health Data Platform (OHDP) address high priority COVID-19 research questions that are responsive to the needs of government.  The initiative is also open to researchers not using OHDP.

The objective of the initiative is to accelerate the generation and translation of research and data analytic insights into action responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Challenge Questions are complex questions that are responsive to needs of government, organized as a subset of the COVID-19 Health Research Priorities.  The initiative serves as a call to action for collaboration across machine learning and the wider health research community.  It will be based on an integrated knowledge translation (iKT) approach and challenges researchers to answer complex questions with actionable solutions.

Research areas and Challenge Questions have been developed through discussions with key Ministry COVID-19 advisory committees and with practitioners, researchers, data experts, policy knowledge users, and patients/family advisors.

Research Areas:

The Challenge Questions are grouped into seven broad research areas. Please click on each research area for more information on the Challenge Questions.  

  • Vaccination StrategyThis research area assumes that a COVID-19 vaccine will become available in 2021. The research area will focus on informing an optimal COVID-19 vaccination strategy, including determining factors critical to vaccine targeting, messaging, access, roll-out, across the population to ensure efficient use of vaccine doses and minimized wastage.
  • Therapeutic Treatment Options and Outcomes This research area will focus on better understanding the relative efficacy and effectiveness of various therapeutic treatment options including drugs, and appropriate use of therapeutics to mitigate impact of the virus. Analysis should consider improving the supply chain for, and access to, various therapeutic treatment options.
  • Pandemic WavesThis research area will focus on improving our ability to predict the trajectory of COVID-19, understanding multiple COVID-19 waves, its interactions with influenza, and the relative impacts of various public health measures at the population level.
  • Testing and Surveillance StrategiesThis research area will focus on better understanding the best mix of population level testing and surveillance strategies including symptomatic testing alongside passive, active, sentinel and syndromic surveillance approaches. Areas of interest include analysis of various types of tests, testing levels and targeting strategies.
  • Population Level Prevention and Containment This research area will focus on informing the most efficient and effective prevention and containment, including closing and re-opening strategies, understanding the interactions between various strategies, and compliance with prevention containment strategies in different settings, and among different population groups.  Analysis should consider the required conditions for various stages of closing and re-opening, the interdependencies, and the health and well-being impacts of closing and re-opening.
  • Health System ResourcingThis research area will focus on informing health system resourcing needed during surges and peaks, understanding of demands and impact on the broader health system and the related non-COVID-19 impacts.
  • Health Equity and Vulnerable PopulationsThis research area will focus on identifying and mitigating disproportionate impacts on populations vulnerable to COVID-19. Vulnerable populations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic include those with specific needs and accommodations before/during/after.

The submission process is outlined here. 

Date modified: 2020-09-17