Carnegie Mellon University
September 10, 2020 Donates $1 Million, Personnel To CMU's COVID-19 Forecasting Project

Full-time team members provided through fellowship

By Byron Spice

Byron Spice
  • School of Computer Science
  • 412-268-9068 has donated $1 million to Carnegie Mellon University to support COVIDcast, the university's effort to track and forecast localized COVID-19 activity nationwide.

The company is also providing a full-time pro bono team of 12 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.

This 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 2020, 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. The indicators are publicly available in real-time on its 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, co-leader with Roni Rosenfeld of the Delphi group. "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 " is proud to support the team at CMU with this grant and our 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 in support of 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 suffering symptoms associated with COVID-19.

During the pandemic period, the Delphi Research Group has grown to over 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.

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