Data Science newsletter – March 23, 2020

Newsletter features journalism, research papers, events, tools/software, and jobs for March 23, 2020


Data Science News

As China’s Virus Cases Reach Zero, Experts Warn of Second Wave

Bloomberg News


China has no new infections of the coronavirus domestically for the first time since the start of a crisis that has sickened over 80,000 Chinese people. But what could be a sign the country has defeated the fatal pathogen is likely to just be a temporary reprieve.

While the outbreak’s epicenter has shifted to Europe, where there are now more cases being reported daily than at the height of China’s crisis, epidemiologists warn that the Asian giant could face subsequent waves of infections, based on patterns seen in other pandemics.

New analysis breaks down age-group risk for coronavirus — and shows millennials are not invincible

STAT, Sharon Begley


As the Covid-19 pandemic takes an ever-larger toll across the world, researchers are expanding their understanding of who is at greatest risk of infection, serious illness, and death, detailed information that earlier had been reported only by China, where the outbreak began late last year.

In general, the U.S. experience largely mimics China’s, with the risk for serious disease and death from Covid-19 rising with age. But in an important qualification, an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday underlines a message that infectious disease experts have been emphasizing: Millennials are not invincible. The new data show that up to one-fifth of infected people ages 20-44 have been hospitalized, including 2%-4% who required treatment in an intensive care unit.

Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How.

POLITICO, Magazine


For many Americans right now, the scale of the coronavirus crisis calls to mind 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis—events that reshaped society in lasting ways, from how we travel and buy homes, to the level of security and surveillance we’re accustomed to, and even to the language we use.

Politico Magazine surveyed more than 30 smart, macro thinkers this week, and they have some news for you: Buckle in. This could be bigger.

Lots of people are now getting interested in infectious disease epidemiology (which is great), but I wanted to do a quick thread on some common mistakes/misunderstandings to watch out for if you’re new to these sorts of datasets/questions… 1/

Twitter, Adam Kucharski


Epi often involves calculating proportions. But make sure the values on the top and bottom of the fraction are being compared in a sensible way. A good example is fatality risk – often people aren’t comparing what they think they’re comparing… [thread]

Keeping the Coronavirus from Infecting Health-Care Workers

The New Yorker, Atul Gawande


In the index outbreak in Wuhan, thirteen hundred health-care workers became infected; their likelihood of infection was more than three times as high as the general population. When they went back home to their families, they became prime vectors of transmission. The city began to run out of doctors and nurses. Forty-two thousand more had to be brought in from elsewhere to treat the sick. Luckily, methods were found that protected all the new health-care workers: none—zero—were infected.

But those methods were Draconian. As the city was locked down and cut off from outside visitors, health-care workers seeing at-risk patients were housed away from their families. They wore full-body protective gear, including goggles, complete head coverings, N95 particle-filtering masks, and hazmat-style suits. Could we do that here? Not a chance.

The plan to turn half the world into a reserve for nature

BBC Future, Future Planet, Jim Robbins


Scientists and conservationists are proposing that up to half of Earth’s land and oceans be protected for nature. Is it a necessary step or a pipe dream?

Why being a programmer will make me a better doctor

Stanford Medicine, Scope Blog, Tim Keyes


As an MD-PhD student whose research is more focused on machine learning and algorithmic development than on biology outright, I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about the seeming disconnect between the skills I need for research and the skills I’ll need to provide good clinical care as a future doctor.

My research focuses on building predictive models of treatment response and relapse in pediatric cancer, so I spend most of my time writing R and Python code that wrangles, visualizes and models data collected from patients. Yet despite spending most of my time programming, I know for a fact that coding is not in the top 20 (…or maybe top 100) skills needed to care for patients in a clinical environment.

Still, a few years of experience in both contexts has shown me that some lessons I’ve learned from being a programmer generalize wonderfully into my life as a medical student — and bode well for my future balancing these two worlds.

How to Limit Hoarding and Keep America’s Hands Clean

Bloomberg Opinion, Noah Smith


“What happened to the soap?” That’s what many Americans may be thinking as they wander forlornly through the aisles of local grocery stores (always careful, of course, to maintain a 6-foot distance from other customers). Fresh food may be abundant, but the necessities of a disease quarantine — hand soap, sanitizer, toilet paper and so on — are increasingly hard to find. For some items, such as peanut butter, this isn’t much of a problem. But for soap, hoarding could set back the country’s ability to suppress the coronavirus by making it harder for people to clean their hands — which medical professionals say is important to prevent the disease from spreading.

As it happens, economists have been thinking about the problem of hoarding for a while. In 1991, the late Harvard University economist Martin Weitzman wrote a paper called “Price Distortion and Shortage Deformation, or What Happened to the Soap?”, in which he tried to model why stores in the Soviet Union seemed chronically low on this crucial consumer good. (The USSR didn’t need a pandemic to run out of the basics!)

Ring’s work with police lacks solid evidence of reducing crime

CNET, Alfred Ng


Amazon pushes Ring as a crime-fighting tool. Data from three of Ring’s earliest police partnerships doesn’t back up that claim.

Estimating clinical severity of COVID-19 from the transmission dynamics in Wuhan, China

Nature Medicine, Joseph T. Wu et al.


As of 29 February 2020 there were 79,394 confirmed cases and 2,838 deaths from COVID-19 in mainland China. Of these, 48,557 cases and 2,169 deaths occurred in the epicenter, Wuhan. A key public health priority during the emergence of a novel pathogen is estimating clinical severity, which requires properly adjusting for the case ascertainment rate and the delay between symptoms onset and death. Using public and published information, we estimate that the overall symptomatic case fatality risk (the probability of dying after developing symptoms) of COVID-19 in Wuhan was 1.4% (0.9–2.1%), which is substantially lower than both the corresponding crude or naïve confirmed case fatality risk (2,169/48,557 = 4.5%) and the approximator1 of deaths/deaths + recoveries (2,169/2,169 + 17,572 = 11%) as of 29 February 2020. Compared to those aged 30–59 years, those aged below 30 and above 59 years were 0.6 (0.3–1.1) and 5.1 (4.2–6.1) times more likely to die after developing symptoms. The risk of symptomatic infection increased with age (for example, at ~4% per year among adults aged 30–60 years).

Scientists Explain Why Coronavirus Isn’t Good for the Climate

VICE, Motherboard, Becky Ferreira


As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, shutting down cities and crippling economic growth, a sudden decline in pollution has led to speculation that this immense tragedy could be good for the planet.

After all, the canals of Venice are cleaner than in recent memory—so clear that fish are visible in the water—and satellites have revealed a dramatic drop in nitrogen oxide, which contributes to smog, over many metropolitan areas as public life grinds to a halt in an effort to slow the virus’s spread.

But while there is no doubt that coronavirus is disrupting our consumption and emissions, according to scientists it is not likely to return many environmental benefits, especially in terms of curbing climate change.

Senator Who Dumped Stocks Before Coronavirus Crash Has Asked Ethics Officials for a “Complete Review”

Pro Publica, Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis


After ProPublica’s report that Richard Burr dumped stocks after reassuring the public about coronavirus readiness, he said he welcomed an ethics investigation.

Stanford device brings silicon computing power to brain research and prosthetics

Stanford University, Stanford News Service


A new device enables researchers to observe hundreds of neurons in the brain in real-time. The system is based on modified silicon chips from cameras, but rather than taking a picture, it takes a movie of the neural electrical activity.

Digital literacy of college students

Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard EdCast


This newest generation of college students is aware that algorithms tend to skew the truth online, but many feel it is par for the course. Alison Head, a researcher and director of Project Information Literacy, explores how algorithmic-driven platforms are shaping the ways college students access news and information and its potential to change the college landscape. [audio, 16:13, transcript]


Announcing the Disrupt SF Digital Pass



San Francisco, CA, and Online September 14-16. “We’re announcing plans to offer access to Disrupt SF content and networking opportunities virtually for our flagship event.” [free, registration required]


Visualization & HCI researchers (especially PhD students or postdocs): If you have a vis-related CHI paper this year and want to write a post for Multiple Views for more visibility

DM me @vis_research

If you’re having trouble DMing @vis_research
@dalbersszafir [thread]

AMTA 2020 | 1st Workshop on Post-Editing in Modern-Day Translation

Orlando, FL September 8. “The workshop focuses on novel advances in modern-day Computer-Assisted Tools (CAT) such as, but not limited to, Automatic Post-Editing (APE), Neural Machine Translation (NMT), and post-editing techniques and their usefulness as components in a practitioner’s workflow. The workshop’s aim is to gain a modern-day outlook on tools and the latest research in the post-editing sector.” Deadline for paper and demo submissions is June 8.
Tools & Resources

How to write well – Rules, style and the ‘well-made sentence’

Times Literary Supplement (UK), Irina Dumitrescu


Writing advice is caught in this paradox. Mavens of clear communication know that simple rules are memorable and easy to follow. Use a verb instead of a noun. Change passive to active. Cut unnecessary words. Avoid jargon. No aspiring author will make the language dance by following these dictates, but they will be understood, and that is something. The same holds for structure. In school, pupils are drilled in the basic shapes of arguments, such as the “rule of three”, the “five-paragraph essay” or, à l’américaine, the Hamburger Essay (the main argument being the meat). Would-be novelists weigh their Fichtean Curves against their Hero’s Journeys, and screenwriters can buy software that will ensure their movie script hits every beat prescribed by Blake Snyder in his bestselling book Save the Cat! (2005). And why not? Shakespeare patterned his comedies on Terence’s Latin romps, and Terence stole his plots from the Greek Menander. Milton copied Virgil, who plagiarized Homer. The history of literature is a catwalk on which the same old skeletons keep coming out in new clothes.

New podcast bridges the gap between academia and policymakers

Penn State University, Penn State News


“How can academia and government work together to tackle problems? That’s the question that a new podcast launched by the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative, a unit of Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute, is trying to answer.”

“The podcast, aptly titled the ‘Evidence-to-Impact Podcast,’ focuses on conversations between Penn State researchers from multiple disciplines and government partners from across the commonwealth about relevant policy issues like poverty, criminal justice, substance abuse and healthcare.”

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