Techspert

COVID-19 highlights the urgent need to democratise knowledge-sharing

Posted by Graham Mills | 03 April 2020
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As COVID-19 continues to spread, the lack of consensus on how to ‘flatten the curve’ and manage the spread of the virus with minimum societal or economic disruption has left individual nations adopting a variety of different measures – each of them informed by their own teams of expert advisors.

Coronavirus knowledge map

Using our AI search technology, we identified the main institutions around the world that have worked on coronavirus. We then overlaid this data on the outbreak numbers as of 3 April 2020 to visualize who holds the leading knowledge on coronavirus and where. 

 

The question of which expertise to trust has become a global talking point. Many governments have come in for criticism over the scientific advice they’ve adopted versus that which they’re perceived to have ignored. However, much of this criticism is based on the false assumption that, at times of crisis, our institutions can instantly gain access to leading global experts, irrespective of the subject matter or the time frame for decision-making.

The truth is that governments – like businesses, or universities, or hospitals, or any other organization – are generally limited to either the experts they’ve worked with before or the experts they can access via existing organizational channels. It’s incredibly difficult for them to look beyond this limited ‘closed-loop’ network of expertise, particularly if there’s little time to spare.

So, they turn to who they know, not necessarily who they need.

In the case of COVID-19, this situation is made more problematic by the fact that new studies and data are being published almost hourly – meaning that the leading experts on the subject can literally change from one day to the next. It’s no wonder that the prevailing impression we’re left with is myriad world leaders all anxiously peering over the fence to see how their neighbors are responding.

This approach, more flatteringly described as ‘learning from global best practices’, is all very well if your nation’s neighbors have access to the best expertise. However, as our data shows, there’s a significant global imbalance when it comes to accessing specialist knowledge of COVID-19, leaving entire continents at a distinct disadvantage for a virus that knows no geographic bounds.

As you’ll see in our visual above, there are three concentrations of expert knowledge (i.e. local experts actively working on the virus) in the US, Western Europe, and China, with very little identifiable academic or clinical best practice expertise on COVID-19 in areas such as the Middle East or the Asian subcontinent, not to mention entire continents such as Africa, where approximately 50 countries now have confirmed cases.

When dealing with problems that are global in nature but require highly localized responses, it’s vital that we look for better ways to democratize access to knowledge and create new systems for enabling governments and institutions everywhere to coalesce around the very best experts on any given topic. That’s why we’re championing the use of AI to break the closed-loop of expert search and give all organizations a platform from which they can access the wealth of relevant global expertise on COVID-19 quickly and effectively, as soon as it’s needed.

About the author

Graham Mills

Graham Mills is the co-founder and Managing Director of techspert.io, where he leads the company's commercial functions and international expansion strategy. A scientist by training, Graham completed his PhD in pancreatic cancer chemoresistance at the University of Cambridge

All posts by Graham Mills

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