The social life of COVID-19 data – A Podcast by Sonar-Global

The COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented for the amount of data which is produced daily about the disease and for controversies over evidence, predictions and ‘misinformation’. Indeed, in February 2020 the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared ‘We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic’. In this episode we explore the social life of COVID-19 data, going beyond debates about the accuracy of data to discuss how data it is used to tell stories, what is counted and what is not counted, as well as hearing about ongoing research into the infodemic.

Reference to the John’s Hopkins COVID-19 map mentioned in the podcast

Music Credits to Joseph McDade  – track name ‘Sunrise Expedition’

About the Authors

Mark Davis

Mark David McGregor Davis (PhD, London), leads social research on health and illness, pharmaceuticals and ehealth. His interdisciplinary approach combines narrative methods for the social sciences, social public health, and science and technology studies. His research has been supported by research council, government and non-government organisations, including the Australian Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council (UK), Health Protection Scotland, National Health Promotion Information Service (UK), and Terrence Higgins Trust in Scotland and England.Mark is a member of the Public Health Association of Australia, the British Sociological Association and the International Sociological Association.

Joel Selanikio

Dr. Joel Selanikio is a physician, TED speaker, inventor, emergency responder, and consultant working in the fields of technology, healthcare, artificial intelligence, entrepreneurship, social innovation, big data, child health, and disaster response. A founding member of the World Health Organization’s Digital Health Roster of Experts, he is the winner of both the Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Award for Healthcare and the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainable Innovation for the development of the Magpi mobile data collection system, the first cloud-based application created for global health and international development. An emergency responder and former CDC epidemiologist and outbreak investigator, in December 2014 - January 2015, he was the lead physician at the IMC Ebola Treatment Center at Lunsar, Sierra Leone. As an officer of the Public Health Service, Dr. Selanikio served as Chief of Operations for the HHS Secretary's Emergency Command Center after the 9/11 attacks. In 2005, he was given the Haverford Award for Humanitarian Service for his work in treating tsunami victims in Aceh.

Tamara Giles-Vernick

Dr. Tamara Giles-Vernick is coordinator of Sonar-Global. She is Director of Research and Unit head of the Anthropology and Ecology of Disease Emergence Unit – the Institut Pasteur’s first social sciences research unit. A specialist in the medical anthropology and history of central and west Africa, her current research focuses on emerging zoonotic diseases and epidemics. She is conducting a national study for preparedness and response for UNICEF in the Central African Republic. She also directs the MICROTONE study, which offers a pre-history of zoonotic disease emergence; the study brings together anthropological-historical analyses with comparisons of microbial and viral profiles among people, domesticated animals and wild animals along an ecological gradient in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has also led a three-country study on the anthropology, history and geography of human-nonhuman primate contact and emerging zoonotic diseases in central Africa. In addition, she has published on viral hepatitis (diagnostics, linkage to care, vaccination), Ebola, Buruli ulcer, the historical emergence of HIV in Africa, global health in Africa, the history of influenza pandemics, and environmental history.

Leonard Heyerdahl

Leonard Heyerdahl is a post-doctoral researcher in the Anthropology & Ecology of Disease Emergence Unit at Institut Pasteur, Paris. Leonard has conducted multiple anthropological studies with high-risk groups on risk perceptions of cholera and Ebola, preventive and curative practices and vaccine hesitancy in epidemic contexts in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Leonard has extensive doctoral training in computational social science, and in the current COVID-19 context, he is conducting online and offline social listening of pandemic discussions for the French Red Cross and for the European-funded RECOVER study.

Annie Wilkinson - Host

Annie Wilkinson is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies/, University of Sussex. She is an anthropologist and health systems researcher working on: zoonotic disease; epidemic preparedness and control; drug resistance; and urban health. She has worked extensively in West Africa, especially Sierra Leone, and within emergency humanitarian and epidemic response. Her recent research explores health in informal urban settlements and the governance of infection control in complex and rapidly changing health and socio-ecological systems.

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