Survey Data and Human Computation for Improved Flu Tracking

Citation:

Stefan Wojcik, Avleen Bijral, Richard Johnston, Juan Miguel Lavista, Gary King, Ryan Kennedy, Alessandro Vespignani, and David Lazer. Forthcoming. “Survey Data and Human Computation for Improved Flu Tracking.” Nature Communications. Copy at https://j.mp/2X10j2U
Paper227 KB
Supporting Information463 KB
Survey Data and Human Computation for Improved Flu Tracking

Abstract:

While digital trace data from sources like search engines hold enormous potential for tracking and understanding human behavior, these streams of data lack information about the actual experiences of those individuals generating the data. Moreover, most current methods ignore or under-utilize human processing capabilities that allow humans to solve problems not yet solvable by computers (human computation). We demonstrate how behavioral research, linking digital and real-world behavior, along with human computation, can be utilized to improve the performance of studies using digital data streams. This study looks at the use of search data to track prevalence of Influenza-Like Illness (ILI). We build a behavioral model of flu search based on survey data linked to users’ online browsing data. We then utilize human computation for classifying search strings. Leveraging these resources, we construct a tracking model of ILI prevalence that outperforms strong historical benchmarks using only a limited stream of search data and lends itself to tracking ILI in smaller geographic units. While this paper only addresses searches related to ILI, the method we describe has potential for tracking a broad set of phenomena in near real-time.
Last updated on 09/04/2020