Data Ethics PH was formed to promote, discuss, and assess the ethical use of data and technology in the Philippines. We are joined by wide group of technologists, data scientists, social impact advocates, and students all with a passion to drive social impact using data and technology.

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Panel 1

Data and Disinformation during Pandemics

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Five months into 2020, and COVID-19 continues to rage. In the span of a few months we’ve come from an environment of too little data into one of too much data and yet our collective knowledge about the virus, its extent, and implications remains limited. Let’s discuss the emerging data and disinformation trends about the pandemic, how to safeguard ourselves from spreading fake news, and how to regard and understand the expert opinions we read online.

We had a great podcast where we discussed:

  • Are we being petty with pointing out data errors?
  • Politicization of COVID-19
  • Bogus cures, inaccurate forecasts, armchair epidemiology
  • Debunking conspiracy theories about COVID-19
  • Dealing with data quality during a crisis
  • Too many experts and policy notes on Facebook
  • All models are wrong, some are helpful, but which?
  • Nowcasting and Forecasting: context over curve fitting
  • The question of significance: what 1% means
  • Over-reading political motivations behind data issues
  • Science, academics, and fear of criticism
  • Critical thinking during pandemics

In this fourth in a series of web-casts focusing on the pandemic, we are joined by two professionals who have made their careers seeking deeper truths behind the facts we see everyday.

About Our Guest Panelists

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Aurora Almendral is an award-winning, multi-platform journalist, currently a contributing writer for The New York Times and National Geographic Magazine and a producer-reporter for NBC News. Aurora has reported on disaster, climate change, human trafficking, migration, business, politics, crime and culture. She was among the first foreign journalists to cover the violent drug war in the Philippines, and went on to produce expansive work on the subject, from the fervent support for the president, to the spectacles of execution and the unflinching reality of grief. Her work has taken her crocodile hunting in distant jungle islands, onboard a 432-foot cargo ship and into the world’s most crowded jails, as well as the back rooms of power while investigating the murky borderlands between business and politics in an authoritarian regime.

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Dr. Peter Cayton is associate professor at the University of the Philippines School of Statistics. Peter has been at the data forefront of the Philippines’ fight against COVID-19 as part of the UP Pandemic Response Team. His modeling is behind some of the crucial statistics being used to monitor the extent of the pandemic which includes outbreak thresholds and case fatality rates. Dr. Cayton was one of the first to publicly calculate and share the important Time Varying Reproductive Number (Rt) statistic for the Philippines which measures the transmission rate of COVID-19 cases. Through Peter’s efforts, Rt is now being published daily at the regional, provincial and city level. He is also a member of the LEADS 4 HSR Consortium (L4H), which brings together public health specialists, data scientists, and epidemiologists to fight COVID-19 using data.

Panel 2

Risk Management and Economics of Pandemics

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When we entered the lockdown we were the first to talk about the ethics of communications and research, shortly followed by the a discussion about responsible modeling during pandemics. Now as we enter the “monthsary” of the ‘enhanced community quarantine’ (ECQ), it’s time for a third take on this pandemic.

After all the talk about epidemic models, flattening the curve, social distancing, and washing our hands, people still have more questions to be answered. Let’s finally discuss the implications of the ongoing pandemic on the other equally important aspects of our lives: jobs, inflation, the stock market, loans, what banks are doing, and more.

As we approach the scheduled lifting of the ECQ, let’s understand how COVID-19 impacts the economy.  

We had an engaging podcast where we discussed current events and implications on the Philippine economy. The Q&A was also quite rich in insights. Some topics we covered:

  • How does COVID-19 impact various economic sectors?
  • Economic Shocks: What is a “V”, “U”, and “L” shaped recovery?
  • What were the BSP measures and how could they affect the economy?
  • Financial crises vs. Health crises
  • What economic factors go with GDP: Consumption, Investment, Government Spending, and how they are expected to perform post ECQ?
  • How does the BSP create money? The roles of banks and lending.
  • How do banks manage risk and COVID’s implications to the banking sector?
  • What’s the difference between Monetary and Fiscal Policy?
  • Lifting the ECQ: Economy vs. Health – what is more important?
  • How was the performance of the Health sector so far?
  • What about Food Security? Does the current scenario spark civil unrest?
  • What industries are impacted by the crises? How can we implement a targeted ECQ?

This important discussion was led by two data scientist professionals who are working in the finance and economics sector.

ABOUT OUR GUEST PANELISTS

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Francis Endrinal has been working with data for financial consulting with banks and major financial institutions. He works with regulatory models for credit and enterprise risk with some of the top banks in the Philippines. He promotes the use of the R programming language for ordinary data work and the strengthening of data skills in the workplace. 

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Robert Dan teaches econometrics and financial economics in DLSU and did stints in government and non-profits doing policy and analytics. He’s also an economist for a major financial institution who uses R and Python for analysis work.

Panel 3

Responsible Modeling during Pandemics

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Our first podcast about risk communications and research ethics was well received but also opened up the elephant in the room: how do you responsibly model epidemic data? 

This podcast discussed informative topics and principles about epidemic modeling, the risks and caveats of imperfect information, and how the public health sector and data scientists can collaborate on better information for the public on COVID-19:

  • Epidemic Models: Phenomological (Data-fitting) vs. Mechanistic (Compartamental)
  • SEIR Modeling (Susceptible, Exposed, Infectious, Recovered) and parameters
  • Numbers vs. Insights
  • Defining Reproductive Number (R0)
  • When will the epidemic likely peak?
  • “Flattening the curve”
  • Effects of Quarantine and Social Distancing
  • Data input: Cumulative Cases vs. Frequency of New Cases per day
  • Exponential Growth Modeling
  • Limitations of Models: Assumptions and Data
  • “We should not allow the perfect be the enemy of good”
  • The moral dilemma of modelers: disclosing preliminary results to the public
  • How would the public benefit from infection forecasts

We were joined by three experts who have openly published work recently regarding COVID-19 forecasts:

  • Dr. Jomar Rabajante, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Biology (UPLB)
  • Dr. Darwin Bandoy, Genomic Data Scientist, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (UP)
  • Dr. Erika Legara, Director, Data Science Program (AIM)

About Our Guest Panelists

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Dr. Jomar Rabajante is a Professor of Applied Mathematics (Mathematical Biology) at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics, University of the Philippines Los Baños. He holds an appointment as Junior Associate at the Quantitative Life Sciences Group of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste Italy.

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Dr. Darwin Bandoy is a PhD Candidate of the Integrative Pathobiology at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, the number one veterinary school in the world with PCARI One Health PhD Scholarship. His principal investigator, Dr Bart Weimer is the Director of 100K Pathogen Genome Project and has published seminal papers in bacterial genomics together with the co-inventor random forests (Prof. Adele Cutler). Dr. Bandoy registered 10th highest GWA in UP College of VetMed since its founding in 1908, where he is currently on academic leave as an assistant professor. Dr. Bandoy is applying machine learning, whole genome sequencing of pathogens and infectious disease models for One Health Diseases.

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Dr. Erika Legara is a physicist and a complex systems scientist. She holds an Aboitiz Chair in Data Science and is the Program Director of AIM’s MS in Data Science program. She is also a Senior Scientist at the ACCeSs@AIM R&D lab. Prior to joining AIM, she held a Scientist III position with the Singapore government from 2012-2017 where she worked closely with Industry R&D teams and other government agencies in building and deploying data-driven decision-support tools.

Useful Links and References

Media

Rappler articles:

Dr. Rabajante’s interview on ANC

Dr. Bandoy’s guesting on RTVM

[PAASE Webinars] Dr. Jomar Rabajante’s Webinar on COVID 19 models

PH Scientist: It would take 2 to 3 months to flatten Covid-19 curve in PH | ANC

 

Panel 4

Risk Communications and Research Ethics during Pandemics

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As of this writing, as the COVID-19 epidemic continues to rage, health data has started to cascade from research papers, official health ministries, and volunteer and tech groups. This has provided an unprecedented opportunity for data analysts, data scientists, and researchers to conduct analysis and derive insights as countries go into lockdowns and quarantines. At the same time, communications and updates from official health ministries and governments have come under pressure from media and a worried public, both desperate for updates on how to stem the growing count of infected cases and deaths.

It is against this bleak backdrop that we need to understand the role that effective risk communications and ethical research plays in helping society understand the epidemic, craft solutions, and also manage vital information.

We had a great pilot podcast last night with more 200 signups in just 24 hours. Unfortunately we could only accommodate an audience of 100 but here is the recorded conversation full of insights. Thank you to our guest panelist, International Health Communications Specialist, Dr. Jason Ligot, as he joined our Data Ethics crew: Carlo Almendral, Dominic Ligot, and Nick Tobia to talk about a timely topic. Thank you to everyone who attended and hope to see you again in future podcasts!

Some key discussions included:

  • Hazard: Mortality and morbidity
  • Managing outrage
  • Communication effects: Cognitive, Affective, Behavioral
  • Novelty of COVID-19
  • Communicating in an era of mobile and social
  • Mental distress and info overload
  • Data people and civil society
  • Context vs. Curve Fitting
  • Data and Media Amplificiation
  • Ethical Framework
  • Is it factual? Is it truthful? Is it helpful?
  • Social media and ethical disclosure

Our guest panelist was Dr. Jason Ligot,  International Health Communication Specialist and Director at Organic Intelligence. The discussion was also be moderated by our Data Ethics PH crew: Carlo Almendral, Dominic Ligot, and Nick Tobia.

About Our Guest Panelist

ayz_ligotDr. Jason Ligot is an international health communication specialist with experience working in health promotion, mental health, tobacco control, non-communicable diseases, newborn health, violence and injury prevention, and environmental health.

He has undertaken projects and assignments in over 15 countries for local and international health organizations, national government agencies, non-government organizations, civil society, and educational institutions. These projects include convening high-level conferences, conducting workshops, and overseeing multi-country communication and advocacy campaigns. Dr Ligot holds degrees in psychology and medicine, graduating with distinction, and has edited or contributed to scientific articles and technical publications on health promotion, health literacy and communications. He received his advanced training in public health at the University of the Philippines.

See some of Dr. Ligot’s recent discussion on communications and COVID here:

See you there.