Case Study: Andrew Wood

Communicating Lockdown Data: A COVID-19 Placement

In January 2021, I decided to work with the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker as a research assistant (OxCGRT; OxCGRT seeks to capture data on government policy on the state of COVID-19 “lockdowns” for every country in the world, providing up to date information to supranational governmental organizations (e.g. UN and WHO), governments (both national and state), media outlets (e.g. Nature, National Geographic, Financial Times, BBC, New York Times, & Our World in Data), and public policy researchers. This is a hugely labour-intensive process, and accordingly the tracker is a large-scale citizen-science project, working with hundreds of volunteer coders around the world.

My work focused both on volunteer engagement as well as increasing communication of the OxCGRT dataset.

One of the main things that I learnt from working on the project is the importance of clear, efficient data communication. I spent much of my time on the project working on developing clean, clear and aesthetically pleasing graphs, maps, and charts which efficiently demonstrate the main messages of the dataset. These new visualisations led me to start writing blog posts, explaining and exploring some of the exciting findings from our dataset. These findings and visualisations also fed into working papers demonstrating and presenting the new data. My analytical skills were also developed working on pandemic policy fatigue and being the discussant at an analytical seminar which brought together COVID-19 vaccination policy research from across the world.

The main highlight of my role working with the volunteers was the organisation and hosting of a “codeathon”. This was a two-day extravaganza (like a hackathon) to celebrate one year of the project. It sought to bring volunteer coders together from all around the world, in order to develop a sense of belonging to the project, but also adding new lockdown indicator measures and reviewing our existing data. I also helped developed branding for OxCGRT, seeking to help unite globally based volunteers with the project. The new logo, featured on the t-shirt I am wearing in the photo, really helped the project find a sense of identity.

I really enjoyed my time working on the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, and through it developed lots of skills and ideas which I am now looking forward to implementing in my own research.