NERC COVID-19 Digital Sprint Hackathons Initiative Announced

Monday, 25 May, 2020

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) COVID-19 Digital Sprint Hackathons initiative is inviting environmental researchers, health experts, social science experts and data specialists to join a Digital Sprint - an interconnected series of urgent activities - in June and July 2020. NERC is delivering the activities in partnership with 'Digital Champions' at Cranfield University. The aim is to respond to the COVID-19 situation and gain novel ideas and contributions from the research and innovation community to provide practical solutions and identify new issues as they emerge.

Entrants will work together or individually to draw from key NERC digital assets and datasets to consider the environmental impacts and consequences of COVID-19 and create a wealth of open, digital, environmental solutions to understand and address the pandemic. The aim is to consider two focal areas:

  • Using the environment to generate a better understanding of the interplay between the environment and the epidemiological and health related aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Understanding how the effects of such large-scale manipulation of the planet, cessation of travel, new consumption behaviours etc relate to tackling the crisis. NERC national capability and research funding can be deployed to achieve this.

The Digital Sprint will leverage cutting-edge technology to support environmental solutions and draw on the capabilities of the NERC community of environmental scientists in support of solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. There will also be interaction with key experts and datasets from health and social science disciplines. The initiative will help develop and inform NERC's programmatic response to the COVID-19 challenges within the digital environment framework.

NERC will run:

  • Three successive virtual hackathons, each over one week and each with a different focus, to create a wealth of open digital solutions to the present challenges.
  • An open 'Kaggle' challenge event over a four week period. (Kaggle is an online community of data scientists and machine learning practitioners.)

The hackathons and Kaggle challenge will have awards offered to the best 'environmental digital solution' that helps to understand and address the COVID-19 impact. The hackathon and challenge details are as follows:

Hackathon One - Air Quality, running 1 to 5 June

  • Is there a correlation between air quality and incidence and severity of COVID-19 infection?
  • What is the required air quality threshold to improve individual outcomes?

Hackathon Two - Recovery, running 15 to 19 June

  • What are the positive and negative aspects of lockdown and recovery measures on meeting Paris and net zero targets?
  • Use of multivariate signals to highlight these impacts and their inter-relationships to inform decision-making.

Hackathon Three - Ecosystem Services, running 29 June to 3 July

  • Understanding whether/how a healthy natural environment modulates the spread of COVID-19, and whether changed human behaviours are having an impact on this. Can this insight be used to improve health outcomes?
  • Evidence-based support for decision-makers and individuals to mitigate their environmental impact and reduce their personal health risk.

Kaggle Challenge - Visualising Risk, running 15 June to 10 July

  • Solutions will turn data into actionable information.
  • Developing unique and novel ways of communicating risk-based COVID-19 data for environmental solutions.

On completion of the activities, entrants will have developed one (or more) prototype digital solution that showcases the approach to the challenge. This will then be presented to the judging panel.

The competitions are open to entrants with expertise in the environmental sciences. It is also anticipated that entrants from other disciplines will take part (including engineering, humanities, medicine, bioinformatics, computer science and data science). NERC encourages the formation of teams and the adoption of a multidisciplinary approach. Individuals are also welcome to enter. All entrants are encouraged to compete in more than one event.

For each hackathon and the Kaggle Challenge, the following prizes are offered:

  • First place: £3,000
  • Second place: £1,500
  • Third place: £500

Entrants will be provided with open access to the NERC environmental data centre holdings and will have further signposting to the emerging bodies of open COVID-19-related data.

Entrants must register using the online form and specify which event is being entered (ie Hackathon One, running 1 to 5 June, Hackathon Two, running 15 to 19 June, Hackathon Three, running 29 June to 3 July, or the Kaggle Challenge, running 15 June to 10 July). The final day of each event is the last day that entries can be submitted for that particular category.

 

More information about this research funding opportunity and the application process is available on the RESEARCHconnect funding information platform. RESEARCHconnect provides up-to-the minute content, insight and analysis on research funding news and policy. To find out more about how RESEARCHconnect can keep you in the know, and subscription fees, contact us today.

 

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