Johns Hopkins researchers launched a dashboard more than a year ago that shows in maps, charts and numbers the extent of the coronavirus pandemic around the globe. But their go-to website sometimes doesn’t look like information provided elsewhere because there are few rules for those providing the data.
The researchers believe the results have hampered policymakers and confused the public, and at times limited governments’ efforts to end the pandemic.
Now experts in the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center are launching an initiative to examine the data’s shortcomings and how collection might be improved.
“There is a lot of complexity in the way COVID-19 data has been collected and reported that we haven’t been able to fully contextualize because of a lack of uniformity in how state and federal agencies manage it,” said Beth Blauer, associate vice provost for public sector innovation and the coronavirus center’s data lead.
The Pandemic Data Initiative “aims to explain how the data got to where it is and explore the opportunities for creating more high value public data sets,” she said in a statement.
The lack of uniformity extends from reporting test results to vaccine distribution and even the number of deaths. Lack of demographic information also has partially clouded the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on minority communities, the researchers say.
States are ending mask mandates and other measures based on vaccination rates, but the researchers say they have concerns about how those rates are calculated. They said, for example, it’s difficult to know how many people in Ohio and Mississippi are partially or fully vaccinated because they count one-dose Johnson & Johnson in two categories along with two-dose Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
The new group plans to regularly provide updates on irregularities and challenges and possible solutions.