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ESR scientists take part in COVID-19 collaboration

17 April 2020


ESR scientists will use leading-edge data science methods as they collaborate with experts from around the country on a new COVID-19 research project.

The ‘Predict and Prevent COVID-19: a data driven innovation project’ has received funding from the Health Research Council to carry out the research.  It’s being led by internationally recognised Victoria University of Wellington epidemiologist and Professor of Public Health Colin Simpson.

Scientists from the universities of Otago, Massey and Auckland are also involved in the project which will use advanced data science methods to improve understanding of how infectious diseases can move through a population.

ESR Science Leader, Dr Mehnaz Adnan says the team brings together different institutions and areas of expertise to focus on improving both the speed and accuracy of public health responses.

“This collaboration is key to the success of the project and illustrates the way that scientists both in New Zealand and internationally are coming together in the face of this global pandemic,” says Dr Adnan.

ESR’s role in the project will be to develop machine learning models to predict possible further COVID-19 outbreaks.

“We’ll take alternative data sources such as time-stamped genomic data, transport and mobile phone information, google searches and social media posts and apply machine learning models to try and identify new clusters earlier than traditional surveillance does,” says Dr Adnan.

The data from the new machine learning methods will be used to create a real-time, interactive, dashboard.  It will be specifically tailored to COVID-19 and used to understand and predict disease transmission and better prepare public health response.