Automated COVID-19 Research Tracking Tool Wins International Data Challenge

Photoillustration of a computer screen displaying 1's and 0's and "COVID-19" in red text

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Competition Recognizes Six Tools that Visualize Critical Virus-Related Findings

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Tamara Moore
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WASHINGTON (May 15, 2020) — A new online tool that gathers and organizes COVID-19 research and trending conversations about virus-related research was recognized as the winning professional entry to the COVID-19 Data Challenge from the Pandemic Data Room. The Data Challenge was led by QED Group in partnership with Georgetown University, Medstar Health, Amazon, Tableau, The Reis Group, IDS, Clear Outcomes, Geopoll, Exovera and others.

The winning tool, created by John Bohannon of Primer AI, updates every 24 hours, tracking the exponentially growing number of COVID-19 research papers, which topped 13,000 on May 9. It lists research titles of the most cited studies from news outlets and Twitter, along with trending terms, topics and quotes.

The winning student entry, by Carl Romer and Shawn Meepagala from Howard University, maps the proportion of cases and deaths by race and ethnicity in relation to each group’s population in each state to illustrate inequities. The insightful data and graphics reveal the relation between COVID-19 and race/ethnicity, particularly underlying health conditions for all groups.

“Diverse, global, and real-time data is essential to decision-making, especially when dealing with a pandemic that knows no national boundaries. We need ongoing collaboration to share information and resources on the ground to help us understand how the picture is evolving on the ground,” said Neelima Grover, founder and CEO of QED Group. “I am inspired by the amazing talent that came from every corner of the world, to work on the data and develop insights that can benefit the global community’s efforts to understand and control the spread of this pandemic.”

The Challenge received 84 entries from participants in more than 30 countries.

Winners in the Professional Track:

  • 1st place — John Bohannon, Primer AI, San Francisco, CA
  • 2nd place — Arti Ramdhanie, University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, created a visualization that includes maps and tables that explore COVID-19 in the Caribbean.
  • 3rd place — Oscar Porras, Jr., MOHS ANALYTICS, Philippines, developed a dashboard that explores growth of cases in the U.S. overall and by state in relation to implementation of stay-at home orders. It also illustrates the availability of hospital beds by state.

Winners in the Student Track:

  • 1st place — Carl Romer and Shawn Meepagala, Howard University
  • 2nd place — Daniel Valderrama-Gonzalez, Georgetown University, developed a map that illustrates changing mobility trends in the United States since March 4 as well as differences in ability to socially distance by race, income level, and profession.
  • 3rd place — Beixuan Jia, Luwei Lei, Miao Wang, and Yuxin Zhang, Georgetown University, created a series of visualizations and interactive features that illustrate the impact and reaction to COVID-19.

Entries were judged on the quality of data analysis, insights from the data, design and layout, and storytelling impact by a panel of 10 leaders in the field, including Andy Cotgreave, Tableau; Jeff Colyer, former governor of Kansas and CEO of Virtus Consultants; and Alexis Bonnell, chief innovation officer of U.S. Agency for International Development.

“This data challenge shows the power of international cooperation and open-source data models for breaking down barriers and advancing our collective understanding of this novel disease,” said Subha Madhavan, PhD, Georgetown University Medical Center’s Chief Data Scientist and one of the co-organizers of the Challenge. “We are excited to partner with QED Group and others to continue to play a role to encourage ideas and collaboration from professionals and students across the world.”

Many of the entries to the first Data Challenge, including the winning entries, are available on the Pandemic Data Room website. QED Group and the other partners will continue to add data resources to the repository and to post research questions to encourage continued analysis from this robust international community.

The Pandemic Data Room partners plan to host additional Data Challenges in the coming months to help cultivate further investigation and understanding of COVID-19 using the available data. Please contact datachallenge@qedgroupllc.com to submit data to continue to populate the Pandemic Data Room, or get involved as a prize sponsors for future Data Challenges.


The Pandemic Data Room, a comprehensive global COVID-19 data repository, was created by a consortium of partners and led by QED Group to improve understanding of the impact of physical distancing policies on social behavior, disease rates, hospital utilization, and local/national economies. This resource is constantly being updated with new data to serve as the go-to resource for COVID-19 data.