April 9, 2020

TDI Alumni Team Up on Coronavirus Research

On March 16, the White House and a group of leading organizations in AI and medical research issued a call-to-action for data scientists: Help us understand and fight COVID-19.

To help in the fight against the virus, these institutions released the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), an expansive and expanding collection of over 47,000 machine-readable scientific articles, 36,000 of which are available in full text.

The data scientists at The Data Incubator (TDI) and their parent company, Pragmatic Institute, are answering the call by assembling a team of fellowship alumni to oversee specific projects for open collaboration.

Data science will play a critical role in the fight against COVID-19, as the ever-growing body of knowledge presents a significant challenge to researchers on the front lines. Data scientists will help in developing tools that deliver insights to those in medical research.

The official challenge for CORD-19 is hosted on Kaggle, and presents data practitioners with a number of research tasks aimed at uncovering new insights into the virus.

By applying natural language processing techniques, participants deliver information regarding the transmission of the virus, the efficacy of intervention strategies and medical treatments, considerations for medical testing, and more.

The TDI CORD-19 team has jumped right into the project, organizing communication channels like open meetings, and Slack channels, and computational resources to ensure a steady flow of information. The central team will manage tasks and track progress, compile results into comprehensive reports, and present updates on social media and regular videos.

TDI has found that this combination of direct and open collaboration has a practical benefit, as leaders can communicate easily across teams to share relevant data and tools that prove useful in other projects. Teams can directly share ideas and reach meaningful conclusions more quickly. Individual participants can lend their efforts where they’re most needed, and where their skills are most suitable.

But there’s a positive, holistic benefit as well.

In the time of social distancing, shelter-in-place directives, and other safety and prevention measures, many are facing feelings of isolation or helplessness.

This project—with its strong sense of collaboration and heavy reliance on constant communication—helps alleviate some of those feelings.

“When we organize our efforts toward a common goal,” lead TDI instructor Robert Schroll says, “we strengthen our collective experience. This is not limited to researchers—in the face of global crisis, everyone has a part to play. This might mean offering direct support through work and volunteering, providing care for at-risk groups, adhering to intervention measures or simply looking out for each other in the broader sense.

“Ultimately, the result is the same: As we come together, we overcome together.”

To learn more about the TDI alumni CORD-19 projects, check out this episode of Pragmatic Institute’s Data Science in 30 Minutes podcast series, where this author joins hosts and fellow instructors Nicholas Cifuentes-Goodbody and Ana Hocevar to discuss the project.

And make sure you follow TDI (@TheDataInc) and Pragmatic Institute (@PragInstData) on Twitter for the latest video updates as the project moves forward and new discoveries are made.

Michael Cullan is a data scientist and instructor for The Data Incubator and Pragmatic Institute. He holds a master’s degree in computational statistics from Arizona State University, and is a graduate of The Data Incubator’s Fellowship program. Michael is leading the TDI alumni CORD-19 project.

This post was sponsored by Pragmatic Institute. To learn more about Pragmatic Institute, visit go.pragmaticinstitute.com or check out their reviews on SwitchUp.

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