More Datasets Now Available for Social Scientists Engaged in COVID Research

Publication date 
May 28, 2020

New datasets are being released by companies and made publicly available during the coronavirus pandemic. A number of Yale social scientists are using these datasets to analyze questions related to COVID-19. On May 26, FAS Dean Alan Gerber held a virtual event for the Yale community to learn about these datasets, how they are being used by scholars, and where to get support at Yale.

The new datasets include,

  • Homebase, a labor-market software program used by over 50,000 firms that tracks workers’ hours, primarily low-wage employees in restaurant and retail businesses;  Cormac O’Dea, Economics, is using the data to look at trends in the labor market
  • Unacast, a geo-location coordinate tracker of 275 million smartphone users that measures social distancing; Anton Gollwizter, Psychology, is using the data to study whether geo-location data track self-reported social distancing, and whether there is a relationship between partisanship and social distancing
  • SafeGraph provides data on consumer activity and points of interest, mostly foot traffic to commercial businesses; Eli Fenichel, FES, is using these data to examine compensatory behavior during re-opening and estimating demand for outdoor recreation, among other research questions. Roy Lederman, Statistics and Data Science, provided more information about the datasets.

“These invaluable datasets enable the research community to develop means for understanding and combatting the pandemic and are also a potential source for important insights into other social science questions of enduring importance,” says Alan Gerber. “It’s great that faculty members took the time to share their expertise with these new datasets with colleagues from across the university.”

Also on the panel, Yale’s Data Librarian, Barbara Esty, and the new director of the Statlab, Sara Gottlieb-Cohen, described research data support services offered at the Marx Library (formerly CSSSI). Library staff help students and faculty find, use, analyze, and archive data. The library’s Stat Lab includes twelve consultants and offers workshops in a range of topics, including data cleaning and debugging.

Further information on these datasets can be found here. Slides from the virtual meeting that explore the details of the datasets and its many uses can be found here. 

This is the second in a series of events by and for social scientists engaged in COVID-related research at Yale. Two weeks ago, Dean Gerber hosted a virtual meeting announcing an open call for students interested in working with a group of social science professors who are delving into the many research questions of the current health crisis.

Opportunities for students interested in pursuing ongoing projects with professors can be found here.