U.S. data release spurs new tools in fight against COVID-19

Gloved person inserting item into machine (© Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images)
A lab technician inserts a patient sample into a machine to test for COVID-19 at Northwell Health Labs in Lake Success, New York. (© Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images)

The United States’ release of tens of thousands of coronavirus studies is enabling experts worldwide to use artificial intelligence (AI) to speed the search for a COVID-19 cure.

Since the release of the COVID-19 Open Resources Dataset, known as CORD-19, experts have downloaded the data 54,000 times and developed more than 1,000 text and data mining tools that use AI to help researchers put new research to use more quickly.

The White House released the data March 16 in partnership with academic publishers and technology companies. At the same time, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios called on artificial intelligence experts to develop tools that will help scientists study the data.

The database contains more than 29,000 scientific studies of the novel coronavirus, including 13,000 with full text. Dr. Oren Etzioni, chief executive officer of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, said the partnership will continue adding to the database and developing new AI tools to better enable use of new research.

“One of the most immediate and impactful applications of AI is in the ability to help scientists, academics and technologists find the right information in a sea of scientific papers to move research faster,” Etzioni said in a March 16 White House statement.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy requested the release of the coronavirus studies as part of an “all-of-America approach” to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic through transparency and collaboration.

The partnership includes the Allen Institute, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Microsoft Corporation, and the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.

Transparency, reciprocity, openness and collaboration are hallmarks of U.S. scientific research. They are essential to solving the world’s great challenges, including finding a cure for COVID-19.

“This valuable new resource is the fruit of unselfish collaboration and now offers the opportunity to find answers to important questions about COVID-19,” Dewey Murdick, director of data science at the Georgetown center, said in the March 16 statement.