TestEd social science and public health studies

The TestEd team included social scientists and public health researchers from the Usher Institute and the School of Social and Political Sciences. They conducted surveys and interviews with students and staff who participated in the programme, as well as exploring reasons for non participation with the University of Edinburgh’s student panel: November 2022

The research aimed to explore the acceptability of regular asymptomatic testing for SARS-CoV-2 on a university campus using saliva sampling for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis, and the barriers and facilitators to participation. 522 participants completed a pilot survey in April 2021 and 1,750 completed the main survey in November 2021. 48 staff and students who consented to be contacted for interview took part in the qualitative research. Participants were positive about their experience with TestEd with 94% describing it as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. Facilitators to participation included multiple testing sites on campus, ease of providing saliva samples compared to nasopharyngeal swabs, perceived accuracy compared to lateral flow devices (LFDs) and reassurance of test availability while working or studying on campus. Barriers included concerns about privacy while testing, time to and methods of receiving results compared to LFDs, and concerns about insufficient uptake in the university community. Staff and students who tested positive found self-isolation challenging to maintain in some circumstances but appreciated the support provided by the University and TestEd, including a food voucher that was provided. Overall the research found that there was little evidence that availability of testing on campus changed the behaviour of participants during a period when Covid-19 restrictions were in place.