COVID-19: Beyond the Headlines

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Today’s headlines show us that in the face of regrettable loss of life, overwhelmed health systems worldwide, and major business disruption, the world can be united and work together to regain health and prosperity. Lots of stats and news grab the headlines. Here, I would like to go beyond the headlines and talk about the way I look at what is happening. Three areas that I want to make brief remarks on are: (1) data management and data quality, (2) the engagement of large consortia of public and private entities, and (3) the power of text mining in combating the COVID-19 outbreak.

Data Management & Data Quality

I have written before about the need for high-quality data in knowledge supply chains. Now, when we need to source, and act upon, all available knowledge as rapidly and effectively as possible, having high-quality data is of paramount importance. However, it turns out that even the most authoritative sources of data are prone to errors or inconsistencies. For example, a number of data inconsistencies have been reported related to the WHO Situation Reports. Promptly identifying and notifying the custodians of the information source of such data inconsistencies, as the University of Oxford team did, is very important. If this crisis doesn’t help us see FAIR data as an absolute necessity, I am not sure what will.

Public-private Partnerships are Vital

The discovery of effective therapies to treat COVID-19 will require tremendous effort and collaboration. Consortia and public-private partnerships are crucial in the fight against a threat like COVID-19. Two interesting examples of such consortia, with initiatives tackling COVID-19, are the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute (C3 DTI), and the EXaSCale smArt pLatform Against paThogEns (Exscalate). The C3 DTI was recently established by C3.ai, Microsoft, the University of California Berkeley, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Chicago, MIT, and Princeton University. The goal of the Institute is to be a catalyst for cooperative research activities to accelerate advances in research. Exscalate is a consortium of 18 institutions from seven European countries which strives to identify molecules that could work against pathogens using advanced screening and computing techniques.

Text Mining

The importance of text mining has been underscored repeatedly in the past. In the context of COVID-19, the identification and extraction of chemical entities from scientific publications can lead to candidate compounds that can be repurposed because they specifically interact with SARS-CoV-2 vital proteins such as the 3-chymotrypsin-like cysteine protease (3CLpro or Mpro), Nsp12 RNA-dependent-RNA-polymerase (RdRp), and Nsp13 helicase. This website provides excellent coverage of drug repurposing efforts and other developments towards the treatment of SARS-CoV-2.

In the home front, I am proud of the work that we do at CCC to support the needs of all participants in the scientific research and publishing ecosystem. We’re leveraging our Velocity of Content blog, our Beyond the Book podcast, and social media to amplify the voices of scientific research and publishing during these difficult times. From the simple action of washing our hands all the way to the use of text mining, we are all doing our fair share to fight this virus.

Babis Marmanis

Author: Babis Marmanis

Babis Marmanis, Ph.D., is responsible for defining the technology vision of all software systems at CCC. He leads a global team of professionals with a passion for continuous technological innovation and the delivery of high-quality software systems. Babis has written the books Spend Analysis and Algorithms of the Intelligent Web, and contributes to journals, conferences and technical magazines.

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