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Johns Hopkins COVID Resource Center in TIME’s list of best inventions of 2020


This will go down as one of the greatest examples of what mapping and geospatial can do. TIME has named the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center to its list of 2020 Best Inventions, calling it “2020’s Go-To Data Source”.

The words Johns Hopkins and COVID dashboard have become almost synonymous now with the dashboard becoming the global reference for the COVID-19 pandemic providing insights for government agencies, the media, and the general public since the outbreak. On Thursday, it reported that the US has crossed 252,000 COVID-19 deaths.

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Johns Hopkins TIME best list

The annual list, announced on November 19, recognizes 100 groundbreaking inventions that, according to TIME, “are making the world better, smarter and even a bit more fun”. The Johns Hopkins Resource Center map, which is maintained in near real time throughout the day through a combination of manual and automated updating, is included in the Wellness category. TIME built the list of winners from nominations submitted by its editors and correspondents around the world and through an online application process. Nominees were evaluated on factors including originality, effectiveness, ambition, and impact.

“The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center exemplifies the vital role that universities like ours are playing in this moment, providing accurate information and evidence-based analysis that shapes sound policy and saves lives,” said Johns Hopkins president Ronald J. Daniels. “We are pleased to be recognized among such exceptional company on this year’s list and, above all, to know we have the trust of millions of people around the globe.”

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The first off the block

The dashboard was created by a team led by Dr. Lauren Gardner, epidemiologist and co-director of the center, along with her graduate student Ensheng Dong. It was launched on January 22, the same day the WHO mission to Wuhan issued a statement saying that evidence suggested human-to-human transmission of the new virus in Wuhan but that more investigation was needed to understand the full extent of transmission.

On January 21, Professor Gardner was first proposed the idea by Dong, who had been hearing from his relatives in China about a new virus outbreak disrupting their lives since December. The duo worked through the night to finish it and published on January 22 with only 320 reported cases mostly in China, the rest in Thailand, Japan and South Korea at that time. That day itself, the US reported its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. This was the first case in the WHO Region of the Americas.

Johns Hopkins TIME best list

Within weeks it had become the leading source of centralized data on the pandemic, allowing governments, the media, and the public to visualize and combat its rapid spread. As the threat from COVID-19 spread, the university expanded those efforts into the Coronavirus Resource Center, harnessing expertise from across Johns Hopkins University to aggregate and analyze the best data available on the pandemic. Since its launch in March, the Coronavirus Resource Center has been viewed nearly a billion times by users around the world.

“It’s been remarkable to be part of such a diverse and interdisciplinary team, brought together by our desire to democratize data, and tasked with the challenge of translating the breadth and depth of expertise across this institution into tools and information people can use to keep their families safe,” said Beth Blauer, executive director of JHU’s Centers for Civic Impact and the leader of the team’s U.S. data operation.

The data sources for the dashboard include the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China, 1point3acres, Worldometers.info, BNO, state and national government health departments, local media reports, and the DXY, one of the world’s largest online communities for physicians, health care professionals, pharmacies and facilities. All data collected and displayed are made freely available, initially through Google Sheets and now through a GitHub repository, along with the feature layers of the dashboard.

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The continuously updated data tracked on the resource center are relied on by the public, government agencies, and the media to make informed decisions and understand trends in cases and deaths, testing, contact tracing, and other public health responses. The CRC also offers original analysis from every Johns Hopkins division, regular live events featuring top experts, and educational content—all of which is free and available to people worldwide.

The center operates through a coordinated response across every academic division of the university, as well as the Centers for Civic Impact and the Applied Physics Laboratory.

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