In the COVID19 era, data scientists have the expertise and a professional obligation to play vital roles, says Harvard statistics Professor Xiao-Li Meng. The coronavirus pandemic, he says, presents them with opportunities to explore important social and scientific questions.

The founding editor-in-chief of the Harvard Data Science Review, Prof. Meng asserts that research based on data sets can yield important insights – from the efficacy of virtual learning and the impact of declining air pollution to best practices for vaccine development. HDSR recently published an online special issue, “COVID-19: Unprecedented Challenges and Chances.”

The coronavirus crisis, according to Prof. Meng, amounts to a massive stress test for data science at a critical time in the field’s development.

“There’s a lack of global protocol for data collection or even understanding of the differences. Yet you have seen comparisons of countries or systems all the time,” he tells me on this week’s Beyond the Book podcast.

“But the issue here is that different countries and different systems have different definitions, different ways of collecting data. So we’re not even talking about comparing apples and oranges – at least, they are round fruits. We are talking about comparing apples with bananas or maybe even oranges with footballs.”

Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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