Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in several parts of the world, measures have been adopted to counter it and prevent the spread of the virus. However, such efforts have had repercussions in many different areas, activities, and segments of society, with a wide range of consequences. In this context, the Federal University of Saint Mary - UFSM, a UNAI member institution in Brazil, had the initiative of showcasing the effects of this pandemic, particularly regarding economic and social issues.
With this into consideration, this institution of higher education launched in June 2020 the COVID-19 Socio-Economic Observatory. It aims to provide a socio-economic perspective about the evolution of the pandemic in our society, with transparency, efficiency, ethics, diversity, proactivity, and innovation. Other universities from Brazil and Portugal partner with UFSM for this project, led by two coordinators, Daniel Arruda Coronel and Nelson Guilherme Machado Pinto.
The executive team, responsible for the project's guidelines, has 11 members, including the coordinators and nine professors from different institutions. The operational team, responsible for data collection, comprises 27 undergraduate, master's, and doctoral students. This project also produces a set of tools to stimulate public governance through governmental actions in the scope of the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, contributing to the better use of public resources and transparency in public management.
As far as the university is concerned, the project brings the institution closer to local realities, making it possible to identify demands for future extension, teaching, and research actions. In addition, the project directly influences the education of future professionals, as it contributes to the development of research skills, problem-solving, and data analysis of the participating undergraduate and graduate students. The portal created as part of the project allows among other things, the dissemination of official texts concerning the pandemic.
Such texts -like decrees, ordinances, laws, resolutions, and provisional measures- are accessible jointly with a vast compendium of data that serves as a resource for further research and actions to reduce the harmful effects of this pandemic on economic and social issues. Along these lines, the portal of the Observatory acts as a repository of several indicators at the national, state, and municipal levels about employment, health, economy, finances, etc.
Furthermore, dozens of situation analyses made by independent experts are also available, as well as academic "discussion" papers focused on these issues, taking into account several variables. The Observatory is expanding its services by proposing a productive environment for debates and initiatives to identify the pandemic's negative impacts on the local reality and possible scenarios for analyzing the current context, and the recovery of the economy and society.
"We want to show the reality and potential recovery policies. Without innovation, without science, we will not have development", stressed Daniel Arruda Coronel, one of the initiative coordinators. Nelson Guilherme Machado Pinto, also a coordinator, underlined that the general public wants access to this kind of information, spread among several different sources. "It is an extraordinary contribution to this moment, and it was a gap that needed to be filled," highlighted Paulo Afonso Burmann, Rector of the university.