COVID-19 and Society: Shaping the COVID Decade

Looking at the long-term societal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Project status


The COVID-19 pandemic was the opening scene for a new decade. The UK was already entering into the 2020s with a heightened sense of political, social and economic uncertainty following austerity, Brexit, the rise of populism and the growing salience of the climate crisis. In a period already defined by discord and dislocation, COVID-19 opens up systemic opportunities as well as threats.

Theatregoers sit keeping a social distance at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, London in September 2020. Photo by Isabel Infantes / AFP via Getty Images.

Despite the strides we make in tackling the pandemic — in testing, vaccinating, and driving down cases — the impact of COVID-19 is not coming to an end. We are now in a COVID decade. The social, economic and cultural effects of the pandemic will cast a long shadow into the future, as well as expose areas of strength, resilience, creativity and innovation. These can emerge differently across places, and along different time courses, for individuals, communities, regions, nations and the UK as a whole.

The sooner we begin to understand these effects, the better placed we will be to address them.

About the project

In September 2020 the British Academy was asked by the Government Office for Science to produce an independent review on the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19. We consulted across the SHAPE research community, reviewed and commissioned research, integrated and synthesised evidence, and refined, elaborated and tested our findings with expert advisors from academia, civil service, the voluntary sector and practitioners.

The review has led to two major reports considering the effect, impact and policy opportunities of COVID-19 across the areas of:

  • Health and wellbeing: physical and mental health (including young people and at work), wellbeing and the environment we live in.
  • Communities, culture and belonging: includes communities and civil society, cities and towns, family and kinship, and arts, media, culture, heritage and sport.
  • Knowledge, skills and employment: includes education (compulsory and post-16), skills, knowledge and research and work and employment.

In this independent review we have identified that to shape the COVID decade we must consider:

  • Nine areas of long-term societal impact
  • Seven strategic goals for policymakers
  • Five principles for a successful recovery by 2030.

The project is led by Professor Dominic Abrams FBA.

The COVID Decade: understanding the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19

Evidence report

The British Academy was asked by the Government Office for Science to produce an independent review on the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19. This report outlines the evidence across a range of areas, building upon a series of expert reviews, engagement, synthesis and analysis across the SHAPE research community. It shows that COVID-19 has generated a series of social, economic and cultural effects which will have long-term impacts.

Shaping the COVID decade: addressing the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19

Policy report

The British Academy has undertaken the substantial task of beginning to answer the longer-term question about what the societal impacts of COVID-19 will be and how we address them. This report sets out an interrelated set of nine areas of long-term impact, seven strategic policy goals and five key principles of a facilitative policy environment for 2030. We aim here to provide decision-makers with a sense of how to start to respond to these longer-term impacts based on the current evidence, and how to shape the COVID decade.

‘Shaping the COVID Decade’, explained in two minutes


The key points from our reports on understanding and addressing the COVID decade, summarised by Professor Dominic Abrams FBA in just two minutes.

Contact details

COVID-19 – Shape the Future

The British Academy’s Shape the Future programme explores how to create a positive post-pandemic future for people, the economy and the environment.

Sign up to our email newsletters