21 Oct 2021

The details behind the data

From Our Changing World, 5:00 am on 21 October 2021

As we approach the end of our second year dealing with Covid-19, it’s notable how many of us are now familiar with the basic concepts of epidemiology. Social conversations are no longer about house prices and sports results, but debates over elimination versus suppression, the stringency of our lockdown measures, and the current R-value as our daily cases creep higher.

Hayley Nessia with the Maui63 project drone before launch. The large orange drone is on a big case on top of a large sheet of grey plastic on a beach.

Hayley Nessia with the Maui63 project drone before launch Photo: Supplied

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We have become armchair experts in looking at data, searching for meaning – and hope – among the numbers. What does the latest study say about the best gap between vaccines? What do ICU admissions tell us about our level of protection? What proof do we have against the deniers?

For scientists, making sense of the data is all part of the job. Damian Christie speaks to two scientists who work with respectively some of the the largest and smallest data sets there are – from the mindblowing amount of information collected every single hour that helps researchers make sense of our changing climate, to a marine scientist tasked with tracking the mere dozens of māui dolphins remaining in Aotearoa. They discuss how their own research journeys, and how they have watched as the public interest in using data for decision making has grown during the pandemic.

Thanks to Professor James Renwick, Dr Andrew Chen and Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine for their contributions to this episode.

You can read more about Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine and the MAUI63 drone project here: https://www.maui63.org/

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