Gathering better data to fight the next epidemic

Do you remember Ebola, Zika, Swine Flu?

Controlling epidemics relies on key decisions, such as how many hospital beds are needed and who to vaccinate first, if a vaccine is available. These decisions rely on data about people who are infected.

Mistakes in data lead to wrong decisions

Mistakes often happen when entering data and may lead to wrong decisions being taken. As a result, we may not plan enough hospital beds to handle all patients; or spend unnecessary money.

How can you help?

We want to understand what errors are made when people enter dates in health records. We designed and ran a 'Typo Challenge' where we want as many people as possible to type dates to help us understand what mistakes people make when doing this.

Why does it matter?

The information from the Typo Challenge will be used to create a tool which automatically corrects mistakes in dates so researchers can analyse accurate data about epidemics immediately after it is collected and important decisions can be made. This tool could help control the next epidemic and contribute to saving lives.

About the Typo Challenge

The challenge ran from 8 October 2018 to 18 November 2018.  We are now reviewing the data collected in the Typo Challenge and will write a scientific article to summarise the results. Participants provided over 20,000 date entries, which has given us a lot of information about the mistakes people make when typing dates. 

The Typo Challenge at Imperial College London

The Typo challenge

Controlling epidemics relies on key decisions, like how many hospital beds are needed and who should be vaccinated or treated first. These decisions rely on data about people who are infected, but mistakes can be made when entering information, which can lead to incorrect decisions being made. Learn about how the typo challenge aims to harness the power of thousands of public contributions to inform a tool that will automatically identify and correct these mistakes.

Note: This video was shot in June 2018. Unfortunately, since then the number of Ebola deaths in the DRC has increased dramatically. Update on the Ebola situation in the DRC can be found via the World Health Organisation.

Typo Challenge

About the Typo Challenge

The challenge will be live from 8 October 2018 to 18 November 2018. After this period, we will review the data collected in the Typo Challenge and write a scientific article to summarise the results. The more people who participate in the typo Challenge, the more information we will have about mistakes people make when typing dates. We were initially aiming for a minimum of 5,000 date entries, but given the incredible initial uptake we are now aiming for 20,000 entries. This will allow us to refine our understanding of typos. So feel free to invite your friends to take part in the Typo Challenge too.

Here are some scientific articles which describe some of the problems that the Typo Challenge is trying to address.

1. A summary of public health questions of interest during an outbreak, and how to use data to answer them: Cori et al., Key data for outbreak evaluation: building on the Ebola experience. Phil Trans Roy Soc B, 2017

2. An example of data analyses performed during an outbreak, which informed how to control the outbreak: WHO Ebola response team, Ebola virus disease in West Africa - the first 9 months of the epidemic and forward projections, NEJM, 2014

3. An example of data analysis used to optimise the influenza vaccination policy in England and Wales: Baguelin et al. Assessing optimal target populations for influenza vaccination programmes: An evidence synthesis and modelling study, PLoS Med, 2013

4. An example of a tool we developed to help assess how much effort should be put in to control an ongoing epidemic: Cori et al., A new framework and software to estimate time-varying reproduction numbers during epidemics, AJE, 2013