Home » News » CDRC to adopt key role in powerful new COVID-19 data alliance

CDRC to adopt key role in powerful new COVID-19 data alliance

The Consumer Data Research Centre will work through its parent organisation Leeds Institute for Data Analytics to provide a new COVID-19 data alliance with scientific expertise and access to global academic research networks.

Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) has worked alongside consortium-leader Rolls-Royce to develop the concept and will take a founding position in a new alliance of data analytics experts challenged with finding new, faster ways of supporting the response to COVID-19 and subsequent global recovery.

Early alliance members are Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, IBMGoogle CloudThe Data CityTruataRolls-Royce and ODI Leeds. The alliance will be facilitated and co-ordinated by innovation specialists, Whitespace.

Together the initial wave of members brings all the key elements of open innovation; data publication, licensing, privacy, security; data analytics capability; and collaborative infrastructure, to kick off its early work and grow its membership.

Emergent will combine traditional economic, business, travel and retail data sets with behaviour and sentiment data, to provide new insights into – and practical applications to support – the global recovery from COVID-19. This work will be done with a sharp focus on privacy and security, using industry best practices for data sharing and robust governance.

As part of LIDA’s involvement in Emergent, researchers will have the opportunity to access these data sets using collaborative platforms which have been established by CDRC.  The academic community will be encouraged to articulate and engage in projects to help understand the changes we are seeing in human activity and social behaviour as a result of COVID-19.

Emergent models will help get people and businesses back to work as soon as possible by identifying lead indicators of economic recovery cycles. Businesses small and large around the world, as well as governments, can use these insights to build the confidence they need to take early decisions, such as investments or policies, that could shorten or limit the recessionary impacts from the pandemic.

The alliance is voluntary and insights will be published for free.

Professor Mark Birkin, who leads both the Consumer Data Research Centre and Leeds Institute for Data Analytics commented:

“Increasing numbers of academics and other commentators are now recognising the potential for commercial organisations to share important data to help in the battle against COVID-19.

An established investment in data sharing capability and analytics capacity makes LIDA ideally placed to lead such conversations.

We are delighted to bring our skills and expertise as a founder member in the Emergent consortium, which offers such enormous potential to deliver benefits to society – and which are so badly needed at this difficult time.”

Connecting business and the academic community

The Consumer Data Research Centre was created in 2014 from a substantial award in the ESRC Big Data Network.  Leeds Institute for Data Analytics at the University of Leeds was then established from the union of the CDRC (Leeds) with the MRC Centre for Medical Bioinformatics.

Since then, both LIDA and the CDRC have been actively promoting the mutual benefit of collaborative projects between corporate partners and the academic community, with researchers working in cross industry teams to undertake scientific research that produces real world insights.

The COVID crisis has further highlighted the importance of these types of collaboration, with governments and their advisers seeking real world insights into mobility, behaviour and human contact networks.

LIDA will be utilising its extensive network – which includes the ESRC Business and Local Government Data Centres, the Alan Turing Institute, Doctoral Training Centres in Data Analytics and Society (ESRC) and Artificial Intelligence (UKRI) – to connect partners with academic experts from multiple institutions and disciplines.

Providing a secure infrastructure

LIDA and IBM will be providing the infrastructure to enable alliance partners to share and compute their data.

Where there is a need to use secure data, partners will be granted access to LIDA’s ISO accredited infrastructure, which will enable them to perform analysis in a safe and controlled environment. Partners using the LIDA infrastructure will be supported by project management and technical support teams from the Consumer Data Research Centre.

For projects using public data, partners will use IBM’s environment and any non-sensitive data will be shared via emergentalliance.org.

Join Emergent

Caroline Gorski, Global Director, R2 Data Labs, the Rolls-Royce data innovation catalyst which started the alliance, said: “We want the global economy to get better as soon as possible so people can get back to work. Our data innovation community can help do this and is at its best when it comes together for the common good.

“People, businesses and governments around the world have changed the way they spend, move, communicate and travel because of COVID-19 and we can use that insight, along with other data, to provide the basis for identifying what new insights and trends may emerge that signify the world’s adjustment to a ‘new normal’ after the pandemic.”

The first challenges have already been issued by the alliance, including one to identify lead indicators of economic recovery which businesses can use to build the confidence they need for investment or activities that will shorten or limit any recessionary impact from the virus.

Emergent hopes to rapidly expand its network of data owners and has set up a website for potential members to register their interest at emergentalliance.org.

CDRC (Leeds) also encourages prospective academic participants to contact us directly at k.r.norman@leeds.ac.uk to receive further updates.