COVID19 Has Taught Us the Importance of Data

COVID19 Has Taught Us the Importance of Data


“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of collecting data quickly, even in emergency situations, and preparing routines that allow the in-progress adjustment of procedures for extracting, organizing and processing data.” So says Raffaella Piccarreta, a statistician in the Department of Decision Sciences who has been involved in the monitoring of infections and the study of the evolution of the pandemic since the early stages one year ago.
In some studies carried out with Alessia Melegaro as part of the COVID Crisis Lab, in collaboration with the Lombardy Region and the Bruno Kessler Foundation, I worked on constructing reliable databases to support epidemiological and modeling analyses,” summarizes the Professor of Data Analysis. “At the beginning of the emergency we were overwhelmed by the rush for data, a somewhat unsettling approach for us statisticians, accustomed to more cautious rhythms. For us, the saying 'garbage in, garbage out' applies: if the information entered into a system is not reliable, chances are the conclusions may not be reliable either.”
During the first weeks, however, it was urgent to share the findings provided by regional data, in order to understand and help the scientific community better understand the features of SARS-CoV-2. The papers written in those weeks were then updated using data that was consolidated over time. “In one study, for example, we focused on the relationship between mortality and access to intensive care, in another on the age-specific estimates of the risk of developing symptoms and of experiencing critical disease (i.e. requiring intensive care or resulting in death) in infected case contacts, to identify the most critical issues and provide insights for a 'fine tuning' of the system.”
Current collaborations with CERGAS and Humanitas focus on an analysis of the costs of care for Covid patients. In another study with Daniele Durante, Sirio Legramanti and Alessia Melegaro and in collaboration with EnelX, the relationships between movements between provinces and regions and the evolution of the spread are being investigated. “On these occasions, unprecedented synergies have been created between the skills available at public authorities, universities and companies and this is a positive aspect, which I hope will be maintained over time.”
In these areas, the role of statistics is fundamental, and ranges from organizing and preparing databases, to identifying models for data analysis, to the response to the challenges posed by new research directions. “For us statisticians one of the most important challenges is to develop methodologies to extract information even from 'dirty' data, and which adapt quickly to the progressive improvement of their quality. I believe that there is a need to increasingly invest in Data Analysts. In any context, whether public or private, it is now clear that data is a fundamental asset, and collecting, organizing and using them in an informed way must be the basis of decision-making processes.”
CLICK HERE to visit the COVID Crisis Lab website

by Emanuele Elli
Translated by Alex Foti
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