Observatory for Monitoring Data-Driven Approaches to COVID-19

OMDDAC provides a public space for the consolidation of knowledge and understanding of data-driven approaches to COVID-19, focusing on legal, ethical, policy and operational challenges.

Observatory for Monitoring Data-Driven Approaches to Covid-19 (OMDDAC)

The Observatory for Monitoring Data-Driven Approaches to COVID-19 (OMDDAC) is a collaboration between RUSI and Northumbria University. It engages researchers with expertise in technology law, data protection law, medical law, practical ethics, computer science, data science, applied statistics in health, technology studies and behavioural science.

OMDDAC aims to provide new research on data-driven approaches to COVID-19, with a focus on legal, ethical, policy and operational challenges. The project seeks to analyse key data-driven responses to COVID-19 and collate lessons learned throughout the pandemic, through stakeholder interviews, case study analysis, representative public surveys and practitioner-focused guidelines.

OMDDAC's project partners and advisers include the Ada Lovelace Institute, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, medConfidential and Lord Evans of Weardale.

Project sponsors

The research is supported with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), as part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Covid-19 rapid response funding.

Observatory for Monitoring Data-Driven Approaches to Covid-19 (OMDDAC)

Northumbria University Project team

  • Dr Marion Oswald, Principal Investigator, Northumbria University 
  • Rachel Allsopp, Research Associate, Northumbria University
  • Selina Sutton, Research Associate, Northumbria University
  • Professor Charlotte Emmett, Northumbria University
  • Dr Mark Warner, Northumbria University
  • Dr Matthew Higgs, Northumbria University
  • Professor Claire Bessant, Northumbria University
  • Dr Guangquan Li, Northumbria University

Aims and objectives

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, data-driven responses have been developed rapidly across the public sector, academia and industry. This has involved combining digital health datasets within single dashboards, the development of ‘vaccination certifications’, and the sharing of public health data with police to monitor compliance with public health regulations.

Developing technology in a 'one-dimensional' way without appropriate consideration of underlying values and judgements, the context and resulting interventions brings with it a high risk of errors, limited efficacy and unintended consequences for individuals. OMDDAC’s goal is to provide a long-term mechanism to mitigate these risks in a way that responds to public expectations. This will be achieved by adopting an innovative mixed-methods research design, incorporating case study analysis, stakeholder interviews, representative public surveys and the development of practitioner-focused guidelines.

By collating lessons learned throughout this period, OMDDAC will inform both policy and public thinking on pandemic management. It is imperative that the UK develops a framework governing the use of data-driven approaches that can be deployed during public health emergencies. Drawing on a powerful range of practical and academic expertise, OMDDAC is designed to facilitate this process.

Project outputs

Access the latest articles from the OMDDAC website.

Mapping the Data-Driven Landscape

In this blog, we share some of the key initial insights gained from these interviews, which will be used to inform the next stages of the OMDDAC project.

Privacy as a Currency in Our Data-Driven World, and its Lack of Value in Emergency Contexts

In many ways, COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst, rapidly increasing the visibility of data-driven systems, and surfacing the impact they have on people’s lives.

OMDDAC Submits Evidence to Government Consultation on ‘COVID-Status Certification’

OMMDAC has responded to a call for evidence from the UK government, which is reviewing whether COVID-status certification could play a role in reopening the economy, reducing restrictions on social contact and improving safety.

OMDDAC Snapshot Reports

Posted on 17 May 2021, these reports examine key pandemic response case studies in three areas of interest: data-driven public policy; tech-driven approaches to public health; and policing and public safety.

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