Google.org, the charitable arm of Google, along with the University of Oxford and others have launched a global data repository to help track Covid-19 variants and future infectious diseases.
Global.health is an open-access store and builds on an idea first initiated by University of Oxford researchers in January 2020, which involved building a Covid-19 database which pulls together anonymised data on as many individual cases as possible. The university also launched an online tool for tracking and comparing the policy responses of governments around the world tackling the coronavirus outbreak in July 2020.
Following early investment by the Oxford Martin School at the start of the pandemic, Google.org provided funding and a team of 10 fulltime Google.org Fellows and seven part-time Google.org volunteers to scale up the project. The Rockefeller Foundation has also provided funding.
Global.health includes data on the pandemic for around 20% of all globally reported infections. It contains highly detailed but fully anonymised and unidentifiable data for individual cases, including their location and travel history.
In the long term researchers believe the databse could open the door to entirely new scientific insights around disease outbreaks and lead to a more collaborative future in science driven by openness and access to good quality data.
Dr Moritz Kraemer, an associate of the Oxford Martin Programme on pandemic genomics, said: “This is the global and scalable result of the ad-hoc work we started early last year when the world started to take notice of a new, emerging disease that we now know as Covid-19.
“Many of the initial scientific papers looking at what was happening with Covid all utilised this data framework, started in an excel spreadsheet with no funding, and we knew we needed to take it to a global scale.
“I see this as one of the first stepping stones to a more open and readily integrated disease surveillance system globally. Tackling Covid-19 has shown that we all need to step out of our disciplinary silos as medical doctors, virologists, or epidemiologists and bring all those disciplines together; data will play a key role in sharing knowledge and insights from these disciplines.
“By creating this ‘one stop shop’ for disease outbreak data, we hope that we can make that cooperation possible and ultimately prevent the next pandemic.”
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