Sune Lehmann deltager i projektet HOPE, hvor man i realtid vil undersøge sammenhængen mellem myndighedernes udmeldinger, mediernes dagsorden og befolkningernes adfærd. Foto Joachim Rode

Big data and behavioural analyses to guide through the crisis

The University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University, and DTU will contribute to the corona crisis management by analysing large amounts of data that will show whether public initiatives work and whether more needs to be done.

The Carlsberg Foundation has just awarded a DKK 25 million grant to a research group from AU, KU, and DTU which will combine big data and machine learning with, among other things, behavioural psychology. The research will help us understand the connections between the government’s handling of the crisis, media coverage, the population’s behaviour, and spread of the virus.

The project has been named HOPE—How Democracies Cope with COVID-19: A Data-Driven Approach—and is intended to both help us through the current crisis and give us insight to better handle future crises.

Professor Flemming Besenbacher, Chairman of the Carlsberg Foundation, about the long-term goal of the project:

“The project will use the collected data volume to identify the optimal strategy for dealing with epidemics, enabling us to learn from mistakes and develop best practice for the next time the world is facing an epidemic of this nature.”

Advising public authorities

The researchers will also continuously share their conclusions with public authorities to give them a data-driven overview of certain elements of the development of the epidemic. This can help serve as a basis for planning public statements, restrictions, and a return to daily life.

About the project’s contribution to dealing with the ongoing crisis, Professor Sune Lehmann from DTU Compute, who is responsible for handling and performing technical analyses of the huge data volume, says:

“The project will examine the connections between government announcements, the media’s agenda, and population behaviour in real time. Big data and machine learning will form the basis of our analyses, which we will then use to understand and predict the development of the epidemic itself.”

In addition to Sune Lehmann, the research team consists of Professor Rebecca Adler-Nissen, University of Copenhagen, Professor Andreas Roepstorff, Aarhus University, and head of the project Michael Bang Petersen from Aarhus University.

According to the Carlsberg Foundation, this collaboration brings together some of the best data-focused research environments: Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University, Copenhagen Center for Social Data Science (SODAS) at the University of Copenhagen, and DTU Compute.

“The HOPE project offers unique support for the fight against the epidemic by providing deep insight into public behaviour. At the same time, this data becomes central to subsequently assessing which actions were successful and which were not. The ambition of the HOPE project is not only to provide support in the here and now, but also to prepare our society for the next epidemic,” says Michael Bang Petersen, who will be responsible for coordinating the project work related to the interaction between computer science, behavioural psychology, and political science in the coming period.