Nav: Home

Corona pandemic: What dashboards do not show

August 26, 2020

How can the course of the corona pandemic and its effects be illustrated? In recent months, dashboards - interactive, graphically depicted online summaries - have become the new norm of displaying infection rates, deaths and patterns of spread. This is problematic, as geographer Professor Jonathan Everts at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) writes in a commentary for the journal Dialogues in Human Geography. He criticises the way the programmes are handled and explains which aspects of the pandemic they are not taking into account.

Dashboards are computer programmes that compile various data, information and statistics about a topic and graphically present them as concisely as possible. These can be simple figures, diagrams or enriched maps. During the corona pandemic, the "COVID-19 Map", produced by Johns-Hopkins University in the U.S., has been held up as the standard. "A dashboard always suggests that you are getting a summary of all the important data," says Jonathan Everts. The data are updated in almost real time and can be viewed by everyone. This is problematic, explains Everts, because these tools are no longer only being used by health authorities, but instead by many people around the world.

Everts says that dashboards often lack a clear explanation, either precise or in general, as to how these figures are compiled. "These values are actually way too complex to be used like this. This leads to overly simplified explanations for very complex phenomena," he criticises.

One example of this is mortality rates, which can vary dramatically from region to region. "These differences cannot be explained solely by the health and prevention measures taken locally. However, dashboards suggest that they can be depicted geographically," says Everts. In order to understand the causes better, there needs to be a differentiation of regional and demographic features, but this usually is not done in dashboards. For example, they do not provide any information about the social groups and places where the virus is spreading particularly fast at a local level. However, this information is necessary if appropriate measures to contain the virus are to be taken, says Everts.

Focusing on individual indicators, such as declining case numbers, could quickly create the false impression that the crisis will soon be over. Another possible side effect could be, that the potential long-term negative effects of the pandemic and the measures taken to control them might go unnoticed: "There is major concern for countries that now face problems in the future as a result of the pandemic. These include countries in Africa, where vaccination campaigns have been interrupted for long periods due to curfews and social distancing. This will create serious problems in the coming years," says Everts. The fact that people might miss routine appointments with physicians out of fear of contracting the new coronavirus could also lead to problems in the medium term, for example high blood pressure or heart attacks might be diagnosed too late. Thus, says Everts, social inequalities remain hidden, which could be further aggravated - or even introduced - by the pandemic.

The human geographer, who also did research on the H1N1 swine flu pandemic of 2009-2010, advocates for a more differentiated and cautious approach to indicators and dashboards in general. "There are two parts to every pandemic crisis: One is the spread of the pathogen around the world, the other is the way society deals with it," he says. There also needs to be a critical, balanced examination of the old problems as well as the new problems created by the pandemic.
-end-


Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

Related Pandemic Articles:

Aortic valve replacement during COVID-19 pandemic
The outcomes associated with deferred compared with expedited aortic valve replacement in patients with severe aortic stenosis during the COVID-19 pandemic are evaluated in this observational study.
Changes in adult alcohol use, consequences during COVID-19 pandemic
Individual-level changes in alcohol use and the consequences associated with alcohol use by US adults from before to during the COVID-19 pandemic are examined in this study.
Sleep challenges during COVID-19 pandemic
How parents can help their children adjust sleep schedules, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is discussed in this Patient Page.
Changes in lung cancer treatment during COVID-19 pandemic
Changes in lung cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic were evaluated in this study.
As pandemic progressed, people's perceived risks went up
A recent study documents how personal risk assessment and protective behaviors are linked.
Hoarding and herding during the COVID-19 pandemic
Understanding the psychology behind economic decision-making, and how and why a pandemic might trigger responses such as hoarding, is the focus of a new paper published in the Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy.
Understanding the psychological aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic
Research at SMU to understand the psychological aspects of COVID-19 points to two main areas: message framing and emotion-regulation.
Corona pandemic: What dashboards do not show
How can the course of the corona pandemic and its effects be illustrated?
How effective does a COVID-19 vaccine need to be to stop the pandemic?
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, is committed to publishing the most robust, evidence-based research and commentary on COVID-19 as they unfold to keep readers up to date and aware of issues relevant to community and individual health during this continually evolving global outbreak.
Media's pivotal pandemic power
The mass media's coverage of the pandemic health crisis carries an important responsibility to offer balanced messaging about COVID-19 and public behaviour, Flinders University public health researchers says.
More Pandemic News and Pandemic Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.