Circle of Excellence Award: Rapid Data Project

An innovative LSHTM crowdsourcing rapid data project has been awarded a Circle of Excellence Award by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
Three of the volunteers of the rapid data project

Building on the experience of a smaller, London-based data project during the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, LSHTM launched an innovative new volunteer project.

Since April 2020, colleagues across LSHTM established a network of volunteers to devote small amounts of time to crowdsourced rapid data work for WHO. The volunteers and academics worked together to evaluate every COVID-19 intervention in the world, producing the WHO database of global interventions in response to the pandemic, allowing international comparisons and informing response efforts.

More than 1,500 alumni, staff and students in more than 40 countries joined forces with LSHTM experts to deliver this project and help governments around the world respond to the pandemic. As events unfolded, harnessing the power of our LSHTM network helped save lives around the world. It gave volunteers a powerful way to develop and use their skills and give back to LSHTM and the global community.

CASE Judges noted: “The enormous scope of the project, along with the sheer importance of the topic, made this a very impressive entry. The project offered worldwide impact while adding value to volunteers and building community connections. Anything that allows volunteers to feel like they have personally made a difference in the global community is not only impressive but extremely meaningful.”

Project lead and Assistant Professor in Geographic Information Systems, Chris Grundy, commented: “I have been involved with crowdsourcing for over a decade now, both volunteering myself and using it in my research. We have built up a bit of a history of crowd cleaning large datasets during pandemics, but the current work is on another level. Some of the volunteers have been involved from the start, they contribute every week and take great pride in their work, to the degree that they apologise when they are not able to take part on any particular week. The sheer amount of hours volunteers have given up for the work is amazing, and myself, the project team, WHO and the people who use the dataset are so grateful for everything thing they do.

“The award has less to do with myself and my team and everything to do with the volunteers. Every one of them should be proud of what they have achieved.”

“I love being part of the group. The volunteers have formed a lovely community. We have got to know each other and had zoom calls to discuss if it is better to be locked down in London or on a Caribbean island when you are not allowed to use the beaches. There have been two babies born and many job changes. I hope we have helped the volunteers cope with this strange time and build skills that help with their futures. The award has less to do with myself and my team and everything to do with the volunteers. Every one of them should be proud of what they have achieved.”

Head of Alumni Relations and Regular Giving, Alice Perry, added: “Everyone at LSHTM is so grateful to the rapid data volunteers. This is an amazing project that has benefited the whole world. Volunteers told LSHTM that this project helped give them structure and meaning during a very challenging year. The impact of our LSHTM community and the dedication of our volunteers is truly inspiring.”