DataFest 2020

Eight teams participated in the DataFest @ EDI 2020 - COVID-19 Virtual Data Challenge over two weeks between 30 May and 13 June, 2020.

For this competition, we challenged participants to explore the societal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic other than its direct health outcomes. Participants were allowed to explore everything from the effects on pollution levels, transportation levels, or working from home. They could investigate changes in the number of people posting on TikTok with their families or do an analysis on online education. We left the focus up to them and urged them to be thoughtful and creative as they analyzed data and communicated their insights about some of pandemic’s impacts on society.

Specifically for this challenge the participants were asked to

  • choose an outcome such as one of the ones listed above,
  • find the appropriate data to explore the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on this issue, and
  • present their findings (along with the dataset they used).

We have always framed ASA DataFest as a collaborative competition, but this was even more true this year. We encouraged participants, this year more than ever, to share sources they found useful, approaches they found to be fruitful, or methods they want to learn more about with each other.

Over the two week period participants conversed with each other and consultants on a Slack channel dedicated to this event and we held two virtual get-togethers – one to kick off the event and the other as a Q&A session, along with participants from University of Toronto who were also working on the same challenge as part of their DataFest event.


Our judges for this year’s DataFest @ EDI were

  • Ksenia Aleksankina - Data Scientist, TravelNest
  • John MacInnes - Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Statistics at The University of Edinburgh
  • Riinu Pius - Senior Data Manager at The University of Edinburgh, Clinical Surgery

The judges first reviewed the submissions from participants independently and scored them, and then deliberated on a Zoom call to make final decisions on winners.

The judges remarked that “all projects showed a fantastic level of data savviness and the technical expertise to source, wrangle analyse, and present data, and some were simply outstanding!"


🏆 Best insight: Team Phoenix

Surges in searches during the UK lockdown

Aditya Rudrapatna - BSc in Computer Science and Mathematics, Year 2
Lauryn Mwale - BSc Mathematics, Year 3
Mark Kleyner - MA in Geography and Economics, Year 2
Nia Indigo Allen-Cooper - MMath Mathematics, Year 3

Interactive app
📃 Writeup
📦 GitHub repository

Team Phoenix was tasked with exploring the societal impacts of COVID-19 beyond health outcomes. They decided to investigate whether there were surges in certain searches during the UK lockdown. While UK lockdowns began on March 23rd, they chose to study the March 1st - May 25th period, hypothesising that many people would have begun to change their search preferences 2-3 weeks before in anticipation. They limited the search period to May 25th, the day George Floyd died, so that results wouldn’t be skewed by the BLM movement & protest news. Google Trends provides data on the relative search volumes (RSV) of topics and queries over time and across geographical areas. Team Phoenix used this to analyse changing public interests during the pandemic.

The judges commended the description that accompanies every trend presented in the dashboard and remaked that they were genuinely interested to read these explanations.

🏆 Most creative topic: The Data Quails

Societal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in the United States

Jaden Kimura Kaori Shimizu - BSc Hons Mathematics and Statistics, Year 3 Claire Squires - BSc Hons Cognitive Science, Year 2

📹 Video presentation
Interactive app
📦 GitHub repository

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the US government enforcing lockdown measures and social distancing, forcing many schools to close. Schools have thus shifted to teaching students remotely, making student’s access to the internet vital for their education. Hence, The Data Quails chose to investigate student’s access to the internet and devices for learning purposes as education continues to shift online. An analysis of student’s access to these two resources can provide valuable insight into understanding how traditional models of education have transformed considering the COVID-19 pandemic. It remains true that these resources are not universally accessible and that socio-economic factors such as income or food sufficiency can correlate with whether students have access to these resources.

The judges really liked the “why this matters” section of the writeup and commended the app and video.

🏆 Judge’s pick - Divy and friends

Searching US in Covid-19

Natasha Rinta Dustan - BSc in Mathematics and Statistics, Year 3
Jie Xin Ng - BSc in Mathematics and Music, Year 2
Divy Bramhecha - BSc in AI, Year 2

📹 Video
Interactive app

How many confirmed cases till countries decided go into lockdown? How closely are people adhering to lockdown guidelines? Are people concerned about taking preventative measures against a global pandemic? Using Google mobility trends as well as search trends for keywords like ‘face mask’, ‘sanitiser (sanitizer)’ , ‘social distancing’, etc. We looked into these issues, focusing especially on members' home countries including India and Malaysia. Comparing these results against countries like the US and UK, the team investigates whether there is a difference in the degree of interest and awareness towards Covid-19 between East and West.

The judges commended the team for combining multiple different datasets and creating a comprehensive dashboard. They also recommended editing the dashboard to remove extraneous background images so the data and findings could shine better as well as synthesizing the results to highlight the importance of trends.

🏅 Honourable mention - Most creative topic: lemonchocolatecheesecake

Relationship between dengue fever outbreak and lockdown

Eman Wong - BSc Mathematics and Statistics, Year 2 Justin Yeo - BSc Mathematics, Year 2 Owen Lee - BEng Computer Science, Year 1 Prakash Nair - MA Economics and Statistics, Year 1

🖥 Slide deck
📃 Writeup
📦 GitHub repository

With team members from Singapore and Malaysia, Team lemonchocolatecheesecake decided to focus on Singapore’s COVID-19 lockdown measures (named Circuit Breaker) which happened to coincide with an outbreak of the dengue virus (which causes dengue fever). They investigated if the dengue fever outbreak could be attributed to the Circuit Breaker, or alternatively if the Circuit Breaker had worsened the dengue fever outbreak.

The judges thought the dengue fever angle was very creative and enjoyed this exploration. They also recommended including visualisations and reformatting R statistical results into a more presentable form, e.g. using the broom package.

Other submissions

As our judges remarked, all entries were fantastic and making a choice was difficult! Here are the rest of the entries from DataFest 2020 @ EDI.