Johns Hopkins University professor Lauren Gardner has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME for her work developing a free and open website that empowers the international community to track the COVID-19 pandemic in near-real time with reliable, independent data.
Gardner, a civil and systems engineering professor in the Whiting School of Engineering, led the team that built the COVID-19 Dashboard in late January. Since then, the dashboard has evolved into the leading source of centralized data on the pandemic, allowing governments, the media, and the public to visualize its rapid spread.
"I am deeply honored and humbled to have been individually recognized for an effort that has required the hard work and dedication of so many, including the team at the Applied Physics Lab, our students in the Center for Systems Science and Engineering, our partners at ESRI, and multiple colleagues from across Johns Hopkins University, who have spent tireless weeks and months collecting, verifying, delivering, and communicating on this critical data, in coordination with officials from around the nation and the world," said Gardner, co-director of CSSE.
Johns Hopkins President Ron Daniels praised Gardner for her pioneering vision to launch an international effort from the Homewood campus in Baltimore that embodies the university's "Knowledge For The World" tenet of advancing intellectual and scientific endeavors that can benefit a complex, interconnected world.
"Dr. Gardner's work exemplifies the ethos of Johns Hopkins: entrepreneurial, pioneering, interdisciplinary research that improves and advances the human condition," Daniels said. "Our current public health crisis has only served to underscore how critical research universities are to the discovery and dissemination of knowledge that shapes sound policy and effective practice so we may meet the challenges of our global community."
The dashboard, which collects and displays data from 188 nations, began as an ancillary project with graduate student Ensheng Dong when the disease was still contained in China. As the threat from COVID-19 spread, so did the map, which quickly expanded into the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, which harnesses expertise from across the university. The dashboard filled a major void in the international public health systems for predicting, preventing, and tracking diseases that threaten to inflict catastrophic international consequences.
As a result, the dashboard concept has been widely replicated around the world by domestic and foreign governments, media outlets, private enterprises, and higher education institutions. An international network of related dashboards is expected to become a permanent fixture in how nations improve coordinated responses to future pandemics and epidemics.
"We initially created and continue to build and maintain this system to address the need for centralized, real-time reporting and open data sharing during an ongoing public health crisis," Gardner said. "Moving forward, it is imperative that a standardized reporting system for systematically collecting, visualizing, and sharing high-quality data on emerging infectious and notifiable diseases in real-time is established."
The global dashboard is the flagship feature of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The center was built to expand the data, analysis, and expertise made available to the world through a coordinated response across every academic division of the university, as well as the Centers for Civic Impact and the APL. Those efforts have been made possible through philanthropic support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
The data and trends tracked on the resource center—and the corresponding analysis from leading experts in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health—have become standards deployed by the media and government agencies to determine effectiveness in tracking, testing, and tracing by public agencies.
"As an engineer, Lauren's innovative applications of data science are tremendously important in terms both of influencing public policy and our ability to understand critical connections at the global scale," said T.E. "Ed" Schlesinger, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering. "The work done by Lauren and her team has come to define the public's understanding of the scale and impact of COVID-19, and the data she's made available has enabled a more nuanced understanding of its toll, such as illuminating significant disparities in confirmed cases and disease outcomes that are now solidified in the national conversation about racial and economic inequality."