Researchers at the School of Data Science set out to quantify the impact of data sharing on COVID-19

May 20, 2020

In response to COVID-19, the University of Virginia’s Global Infectious Diseases Institute with the Office of the Vice President for Research created funding for research related to the pandemic. Two School of Data Science researchers recognized this as an opportunity to help out. 

Six projects, covering a wide variety of topics, have received grants from this fund so that researchers at UVA can dive into various aspects of the pandemic. The projects include analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on individuals with chronic health conditions, evaluating the impact of the virus on rural communities, and creating online interventions to reduce anxiety caused by the pandemic. 

Daniel Mietchen, researcher at the School of Data Science, was awarded a grant for his project with Jundong Li, a professor in the School of Engineering who also holds a joint appointment at the School of Data Science. Their grant is for $92,000. 

Their project is titled “Quantifying the Impact of Data Sharing on Outbreak Dynamics,” and they are establishing a Github presence so that their work is open-source.

“Jundong mentioned an interest in data aspects of outbreaks, which I share, so he was put in touch with me, and the two of us then mapped out our interests in more detail,” Mietchen explained. “His particularly are in the area of decision-making under behavioral uncertainty, as well as in the networked analysis (and potentially generation) of observational data from various sources. My interests in this area are focused on how public health emergencies and disasters more generally trigger sharing and openness, particularly in the digital realm, and how such digital sharing can assist with disaster management and response.” 

They had these discussions in early February.

“The COVID-19 outbreak had been in the news for some weeks, so the project was developed with COVID-19 in mind, albeit with a broader scope that includes aspects of past and potential future outbreaks,” Mietchen said.

Li and Mietchen plan to study the decisions made during COVID-19 using data science methods. They will look at how information and data has spread during the pandemic.

"In this project, we will explore the range of data-related decisions from various stakeholders made during COVID-19 and analyze the flow of information, data, and metadata through the decision network concerning different types of modifications of such flows,” Li explained.

As the field of data science develops, knowing how data spreads has become crucial. During this pandemic, the necessity for accurate data has inspired Mietchen and Li to study how COVID-19 data spreads and how the spread of this information affects the progress of the pandemic in global and local contexts.

Li and Mietchen will combine their expertise in engineering and data science to understand when the best time is to share or withhold particular data based on its possible impact. Their work will involve analyzing past and current data to weigh alleviation efforts and evaluate the preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic.


There will be a webinar on May 27 at 3pm about the COVID-19 rapid response funded research at UVA. Mietchen and Li will speak at this webinar. Register here.