Google.org Donates $1 Million, Personnel to CMU's COVID-19 Forecasting Project
Full-time team members supplied through Google.org fellowship
By Byron Spice
The company is also providing a full-time pro bono team of 12 Google.org fellows — including software engineers, a program and product manager, a user experience (UX) researcher, and a UX designer — to support CMU's Delphi Research Group for the next six months.
Both contributions will help Delphi expand its efforts to provide both a geographically detailed view of various aspects of the pandemic and an early warning to health officials when the number of cases in a locale are expected to rise.
Since April, Delphi has been producing a variety of COVID-19 indicators, such as self-reported symptoms, doctor visits for COVID-19 symptoms and the time people spend away from their homes. These indicators are publicly available in real-time on the group's COVIDcast visualization website and via online data access.
Delphi has been producing forecasts since June and started sharing its forecasts with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July.
Delphi has worked with Google, Facebook and other companies to gather its disease indicators, which include medical tests, hospital admission and browser searches related to COVID-19.
"Google's support has been — and will continue to be — absolutely vital to our COVID-19 response," said Ryan Tibshirani, who co-leads the Delphi group with Roni Rosenfeld. "We are indebted to Google for this support. This is the silver lining of this pandemic: You find out just how many people and organizations, such as Google, are truly generous, and want to help."
"It's been remarkable to see leaders across different industries, sectors and areas of expertise come together during this critical time in our world's history," said Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink, head of product impact for Google.org. "Google.org is proud to support the team at CMU with this grant and our Google.org fellows as they work together to better understand and address the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Tibshirani, associate professor of statistics and machine learning, and Rosenfeld, head of the Machine Learning Department, created the Delphi group eight years ago to perform epidemic forecasting, most notably for seasonal influenza. Google has provided search data to support that effort for the last five years.
This year, the CDC asked CMU to extend its tracking and forecasting to include COVID-19, and Google has continued to provide search data, as well as distributing a survey question asking users if they are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19.
During the pandemic period, the Delphi Research Group has grown to more than 40 people, including faculty, students and staff as well as volunteer contributors from outside the university. Last year, the CDC named Delphi one of two National Centers of Excellence for Influenza Forecasting.