The COVID-19 Mobility Data Network (CMDN) is a network of infectious disease epidemiologists at universities around the world working with technology companies to use aggregated mobility data to support the COVID-19 response.
The goal of the CMDN is to provide daily updates to decision makers at the state and local levels on how well social distancing interventions are working, using anonymized, aggregated data sets from mobile devices, along with analytic support for interpretation.
The network led a User feedback Project, which engaged with over 70 individuals from universities to government offices. Practitioners worked in public health departments, city and county governments, and some were part of government data response teams. Researchers came from all over the world, with many based in the United States.
Those interviewed for the User Feedback Project consisted of a purposive and convenience sample of interviews and email communications to gain a deeper understanding of how researchers and government teams used Facebook mobility data for COVID-19 response activities. Interviews covered all continents around the world except for Antarctica with a bias toward US based collaborations.
While the CMDN originally was intended as a global network of academics in infectious epidemiology the findings from the User Feedback Project revealed a much larger network. The ripple effect of their efforts was large and this thematic brief describes some of the early patterns seen in this broader network. It also discloses much of what is unknown.
CMDN Network Characteristics
Network collaborations vary greatly and a description of research and disaster networks are outside the scope of this short brief. Nonetheless, the CMDN embodied many network principles and fundamentals described by the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Network members supported city governments, governors offices, and emergency operational centers (EOCs). They also supported public health offices and multinational organizations such as the European Commission. There was a common commitment to leverage academic and data science with a focus on transforming the analyses for the practical use of public health and policy makers in COVID-19 response activities.
The response environment varied widely among practitioners, but with a common mission. Public health teams in New York City (NYC) faced a peak in cases and deaths March-April 2020, while other teams, such as those in East Asia worked with
much smaller caseloads.
Trust was apparent throughout the Network and there was a collective commitment among participants to use anonymized
data, and agree to Facebook? Data Use Agreement and the Network Data Use Policy. Among researchers, the Network was able to coordinate actions in a distributed manner. Weekly network calls were opt-in and researchers convened during these virtual calls to share their ways of working, often posing challenges that other members of the groups would help with sharing ideas for potential solutions.
The Network at a Glance
Researchers in the Network
Practitioner or Researcher Perspectives
What the Network Looked Like From the User Feedback Project
While the Network is described as a ?network of infectious disease epidemiologists at universities around the world?, the people involved were much more diverse than this initial intended group. Collaborators in government offices were
emergency managers, data fellows, chief technology officers, analysts from consultancy groups, and even volunteers supporting data teams in government offices. Researchers who collaborated with practitioners were largely epidemiologists from universities, but also included professors of ecology, engineering, and urban planning. It was remarkable to observe 150+ individuals from academic and research organizations engage with the Network, and a smaller proportion of them work to analyze data with practitioners. The Network asked participants to commit to applying research to practice and this was expressed regularly by the CMDN coordinators during weekly network calls with researchers, and this view was echoed in the interviews during this project.
There was neither a prescriptive process nor a set of requirements of how to engage and act within the network. Each group took the journey of transformation and translation based upon their regional or local context in the constantly changing pandemic environment, which has yet to abate.