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Derby academic: Covid-19 data models caused delays in response

8 February 2021

Picture of Covid 19 stats chart
Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

A University of Derby academic named as one of the UK’s most influential technology figures has argued that the models used for analysing Covid-19 data caused delays in action taken to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

In a new article entitled ‘Big Data and Analytics Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic’, Richard Self, Senior Lecturer in Governance of Advanced and Emerging Technologies at the University, writes that the models being used for Covid-19 data were old and created “for a totally different context”.

He also argues that delays to the first lockdown in March last year were caused because data about the virus “didn’t indicate urgency”.

Richard, who was recently named as the country’s second most influential academic in the Tyto Tech 500 Power List, writes: “Covid-19 has demonstrated the limitations of this approach in situations where the data and knowledge (science) is incomplete, the models are inaccurate and do not accurately represent reality and the decision-makers have what could be called tunnel-vision and only consider what their models tell them.

“Part of the Covid problem was that the model being used was an old model created over a period of decades for a totally different context.”

The article was written for the AI Summit Vision Aires website, with Richard being among the first experts from around the world to be invited to write for the site.

The full article can be read here on the University of Derby blog site.

Covid-19 has demonstrated the limitations of this approach in situations where the data and knowledge (science) is incomplete, the models are inaccurate and do not accurately represent reality

Richard Self,
Senior Lecturer in Governance of Advanced and Emerging Technologies

In addition to his high academic placing in the Tech 500 list, Richard was ranked 38th overall, alongside politicians such as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Science Minister and Derby North MP Amanda Solloway, as well as business leaders, including Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group of companies.

The Tech 500 includes lists for the UK, Germany and France, and the combined top 100 from across Europe. It is compiled using a methodology which includes research, but also the influence of the individuals named in it across social and mainstream traditional media, and the strength of their brand.

During 2020, Richard was a keynote speaker at a range of international events focused on artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT).

He chaired the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Summit organised by IT data and analytics specialists UNICOM, and a number of key discussions at the IoT World Africa Tech Festival organised by the international exhibitions, conferences and training organisation Informa.

He also gave presentations to the Software Testing Industry Forum, Blockchain and Fintech Digital Summit, and the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Summit.

Several of Richard’s speeches and presentations considered the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on big data and analytics.

Richard added: “Much of my work over the past year has acknowledged that data and analytics have been far from immune from the coronavirus pandemic, and we have learned much about the way that the models we have worked with in technology, and the assumptions that underpin them, have been affected too.

“The list demonstrates that too in some respects; illustrating how certain sectors have waned in influence while others have grown over the past year, as society has had to adapt to combat the virus.”

Dr Chris Bussell, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, said: “Richard’s inclusion on this list is very well-deserved. His contribution to the global discussion about big data and the way in which it shapes business, policy and the way we live our lives, illustrates the importance we place on having academics at Derby who are acknowledged leaders in their field, sharing and creating vital knowledge which our students can use in their research, studies and  future careers.”

You can view Richard’s presentations and keynote speeches on his YouTube Channel

For more information about Data Science research at the University of Derby, visit our website.

For further information contact the Corporate Communications team at pressoffice@derby.ac.uk or call 01332 593419.