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University of Maryland partnering with Facebook to help collect coronavirus data for research efforts

Governor Larry Hogan personally planning to address issues with the states unemployment website.

Faculty at the University of Maryland have been working with Facebook to design a worldwide survey aimed at collecting coronavirus data during the global pandemic.

The University of Maryland and Carnegie Mellon University are partnering with the social media company to gather information on the coronavirus to help diagnose which areas have been most impacted and assist public health officials in their response and prevention efforts.

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Frauke Kreuter, director of the Joint Program in Survey Methodology at UMD, said Thursday in a phone interview that faculty in four departments — survey methodology, geography, computer science and information science — have been working since late March to help develop an approximately five-minute survey that Facebook can distribute to its over 2 billion active monthly users.

The first part of the survey focuses on what symptoms people have exhibited, while the second and third parts center on social distancing behavior and demographic information. Survey responses are recorded on an off-site platform, then sent back to researchers and not shared with Facebook.

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Initial findings from Carnegie Mellon have been used to plot geographic data relating to COVID-19, such as doctors’ visits in a specific region and demand for flu tests.

Kreuter said the departments have worked “day and night” in the recent weeks to quickly create a survey to collect data on the coronavirus, which has over 3 million confirmed cases worldwide, and over 1 million confirmed cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

“As the world fights covid-19 and countries develop plans to reopen their societies, it’s critical to have a clear understanding of how the disease is spreading,” Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in The Washington Post. “Better data can help governments determine where to send resources such as ventilators and personal protective equipment — and eventually which areas are safe to start opening up again.”

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