White House, big tech, research orgs are calling on AI researchers for coronavirus insights

The recently announced COVID-19 Open Research Dataset consists of more than 29,000 machine-readable coronavirus articles ripe for analysis.
By Dave Muoio
03:40 pm

A collaboration between government organizations, research institutions and major tech companies has put out the call for artificial intelligence experts interested in generating new insights about coronavirus.

As of Monday, a collection of machine-readable literature on the coronavirus group of viruses is now freely available for review on the Allen Institute for AI's SemanticScholar.org website. This growing dataset currently contains more than 29,000 articles, over 13,000 of which are full text.

The COVID-19 Open Research Dataset initiative was requested by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and jointly organized by the Allen Institute for AI, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Microsoft, the National Library of Medicine and Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET).

The project has also provided a handful of "key scientific questions" for researchers to address, each of which was developed in coordination with a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine standing committee and the World Health Organization. Each of these is available on Google Cloud's Kaggle platform, where the initiative is also instructing researchers to upload their data mining tools and the insights they've generated.

“This valuable new resource is the fruit of unselfish collaboration and now offers the opportunity to find answers to important questions about COVID-19,” Dr. Dewey Murdick, the director of data science at CSET, who coordinated the effort, said in a statement from the White House. “Once the crisis has passed, we hope this project will inspire new ways to use machine learning to advance scientific research.”


The COVID-19 pandemic is only increasing in scale, with reports from Johns Hopkins University today indicating that confirmed cases of the virus have surpassed 200,000 worldwide. Researchers and policymakers alike are rushing to make sense of new-case data streaming in from around the globe, or to derive new understanding from prior research on coronavirus group diseases.

With time at a premium, AI provides a means to scour these large bodies of data and more quickly act upon any findings for the benefit of public health.

“It’s all-hands on deck as we face the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Eric Horvitz, chief scientific officer at Microsoft, said in a statement. “We need to come together as companies, governments, and scientists and work to bring our best technologies to bear across biomedicine, epidemiology, AI, and other sciences. The COVID-19 literature resource and challenge will stimulate efforts that can accelerate the path to solutions on COVID-19.”


The last few years have seen stakeholders leverage AI analysis and big data to deliver new healthcare treatments and discoveries, whether that be through drug discovery, real-world evidence analytics, rare disease diagnoses or large-scale literature review.

The COVID-19 Open Research Dataset is also another example of major technology companies collaborating with administrations and research organizations to tackle COVID-19. So far, these efforts have aimed to crack down on misinformation, streamline testing and, according to some reports, employ device-location-data to track exposure – all to varying levels of success.


“Decisive action from America’s science and technology enterprise is critical to prevent, detect, treat, and develop solutions to COVID-19," U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios said in a statement. "The White House will continue to be a strong partner in this all hands-on-deck approach. We thank each institution for voluntarily lending its expertise and innovation to this collaborative effort, and call on the United States research community to put [AI] technologies to work in answering key scientific questions about the novel coronavirus.”


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