Nature has a behind-the-scenes profile of how the enormously popular coronavirus tracking map created by Johns Hopkins University was created. The near-realtime mapping and tracking of confirmed cases, deaths, and recoveries from COVID-19 receives a billion hits per day per from both healthcare professionals and the general public. The idea to create a public-facing interface that could aggregate and map out confirmed COIVD-19 cases around the world came from first-year engineering student Ensheng Dong and his advisor, Lauren Gardner. Dong and Gardner were able to quickly launch the COVID-19 map dashboard within a few hours as they had previously used Esri’s ArcGIS dashboard technology for mapping measles hotspots. Gardner notes,
“It was a bit of a spur-of-the-moment decision to say, let’s build out this data set and let’s keep doing it, let’s make it public. And let’s go ahead and visualize it while we’re at it. And [we] built a dashboard that night.”
While the COVID-19 map tracker was originally conceived as a way to push out data about cases to researchers in epidemiology and disease modelers, the web site has become a heavy visited destination for visitors looking to view the data visualizations and to pull the aggregated data on COVID-19 cases that the team makes available via its 2019 Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) Data Repository hosted on Github.
The original three-person team working on the map dashboard has grown to two-dozen and includes other graduate students, members from the media and PR groups at Johns Hopkins as well as support from Esri staff. The core staff of five people continues to work on tweaking the site to make data collection and visualization better. The data collection for the coronavirus map trackeris now mostly updated with automated data collection and web scraping from the multitude of health agencies and news sites that produce reports about cases.
Perkel, J. M. (2020, April 7). Behind the Johns Hopkins university coronavirus dashboard. Retrieved from https://www.natureindex.com/news-blog/behind-johns-hopkins-university-coronavirus-dashboard
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