Commit to transparent COVID data until the WHO declares the pandemic is over

Edouard Mathieu at Nature: “…There are huge inequalities in data reporting around the world. Most of my time over the past two years has been spent digging through official websites and social-media accounts of hundreds of governments and health authorities. Some governments still report official statistics in low-resolution images on Facebook or infrequent press conferences on YouTube — often because they lack resources to do better. Some countries, including China and Iran, have provided no files at all.

Sometimes, it’s a lack of awareness: government officials might think that a topline figure somewhere in a press release is sufficient. Sometimes, the problem is reluctance: publishing the first file would mean a flood of requests for more data that authorities can’t or won’t publish.

Some governments rushed to launch pandemic dashboards, often built as one-off jobs by hired contractors. Civil servants couldn’t upgrade them as the pandemic shifted and new metrics and charts became more relevant. I started building our global data set on COVID-19 vaccinations in 2021, but many governments didn’t supply data for weeks — sometimes months — after roll-outs because their dashboards couldn’t accommodate the data. Worse, they rarely supplied underlying data essential for others to download and produce their own analyses. (My team asked repeatedly.)

Over and over, I’ve seen governments emphasize making dashboards look good when the priority should be making data available. A simple text file would do. After all, research groups like mine and citizens with expertise in data-visualization tools are more than willing to create a useful website or mobile app. But to do so, we need the raw material in a machine-readable format….(More)”.