Task Force COVID-19

NFDI4Health Task Force COVID-19:

Better understanding the COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences through integrated and harmonized research efforts

Image

Background

COVID-19 poses a major challenge to individuals and societies around the world. Lockdown efforts dramatically changed social lives, economic prospects and health services. This created a huge demand for scientific data to understand the virus’ spread, therapeutic options and consequences of the pandemic mitigation measures. Within the medical, epidemiological and public health sciences a large number of studies were launched which lacked coordination to secure common standards and comparable results. Record linkage of individual data across various data sources was insufficiently implemented. Imaging as a diagnostic tool needed more attention. The focus of this early research was on COVID-19 inpatients, while less attention was paid to outpatients and the public health effects of mitigation measures. These shortcomings impaired the usability of research results for future medical, societal and public health decisions.

Against this background, we have extended the National Research Data Infrastructure for Personal Health Data (NFDI4Health) work programme by a further use case “NFDI4Health Task Force COVID-19” and set up a nationwide COVID-19 research information and guidance infrastructure. NFDI4Health with its strong public health community provides the necessary structures to address the shortcomings mentioned above. It integrates major German institutions experienced as methodology developers, data holders and analysts.

Overarching goals

The overarching goals of the NFDI4Health Task Force COVID-19 are to strengthen harmonized medical, epidemiological and public health related research and to improve prospects for informing stakeholders on research results. Contrary to other initiatives in the medical sciences, we focus on public health consequences of the pandemic outbreak such as morbidity, mortality, health care utilization, and effects of social isolation.

First results

So far, we have implemented the following parts of our work programme: (1) We created an inventory of German COVID-19 studies covering structured health data from clinical trials incl. vaccination studies, epidemiological studies, and public health surveillance. The three components of our COVID-19 study portal – central search portal, document portal and instrument portal – improve findability of and access to these resources and foster data sharing, harmonized quality assessments, and interoperability. (2) We have developed an AI-based image analysis service tool for CT data and made it available to the public. (3) We have formulated a concept to link different data sources like hospital, medication, sequencing, imaging, and psychosocial data. (4) To create central access to preprints on COVID-19, we have set up a text-mining-based preprint viewer with semantic search functionalities.

The project results will be summarized and published in a blueprint paper “Covering future pandemics”.

Funding

The NFDI4Health Task Force COVID-19 will be funded by the German Research Fundation (project number 451265285) until June 2023.

Cooperation with other (COVID 19) initiatives

To achieve our goals, we closely collaborate with other national institutions and initiatives such as Nationales Forschungsnetzwerk der Universitätsmedizin (NUM), the German National Cohort (GNC) and the Medical Informatics Initiative (MII). We are in active exchange with international initiatives such as RDA, FAIRSharing, FAIRDOM or Go FAIR.

Image