https://neuedistanz.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/cdc-k0KRNtqcjfw-unsplash.jpg 1080 1920 Clemens Reisbeck https://neuedistanz.de/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/logo-neues-distanz-1.png Clemens Reisbeck2020-04-22 15:37:402020-04-22 15:44:59#Aheadofthecurve
*Disclaimer: This article is based on the contents of the New Distance webinar „Evidence in the Corona Crisis“ on April 17, 2020. The authors are Prof. Dr. Marcus Hagedorn (Full Professor of Economics at the University of Oslo and Head of the IPE Institute for Policy Evaluation), Dieter Romatka (Managing Director „ISK Institute for Communication“) and Dr. Philipp Mauch (Initiator New Distance and Managing Partner PIVOT Regulatory). The presentation slides are available under the following link:
Germany stands still. But not for long. No one doubts that an end to the lockdown is in sight. But it is unclear how things will actually continue in the coming weeks. The view into the future: foggy. The government is therefore, as one often hears these days, driving „on sight“. Understandable, because we do not yet know enough about the pandemic to draw up a sensible long-term battle plan. When should, can, may normal life begin again? And how do we ensure that we select measures based on reliable data?
Mandatory masks, tracking apps, isolating risk groups – there is no shortage of ideas for overcoming the deadlock in society and the economy. What is missing is: scientific evidence for the selection and success control of the measures. This is because the data that is currently being collected – for example through antibody tests in Heinsberg or Munich – is retrospective data. They merely allow a retrospective explanation of the crisis. That is good, but not sufficient. If you want to act far-sightedly now, you have to be able to get ahead of the process, i.e. anticipate developments as reliably as possible and not run after them.
The challenges in evaluating the instruments that have been introduced are manifold: On the one hand, the highest priority must be given to clarifying whether the measures taken are sufficiently effective to contain the pandemic sustainably. At the same time, we have to examine what socio-psychological consequences they will have. After all, the crisis does not run unilaterally along the infection curve alone, but also along the mood curve.
The infection curve: rearview mirror vs. binoculars
According to the Johns Hopkins University, well over one and a half million people worldwide are demonstrably suffering from the new corona virus. It is clear that the official figures do not reflect reality and that there is an unreported number. It is true that infection figures from the Robert Koch Institute are published daily. However, these only take into account the reported cases. The number of actual infections is likely to be many times higher, as only a small part of the population is tested. In addition, unlike with influenza, there are no reliable models for extrapolating the infection figures. Consequently, it is completely unclear at what speed the virus spreads in which regions of Germany and how successful measures already taken in the individual federal states are. This is dramatic, because this information could be used to estimate the proportion of people who will need in-patient treatment in the foreseeable future and in which regions medical equipment is particularly urgently needed. Human lives are at stake here.
But what is the way out of the data dilemma? One approach to the solution: nationwide and regionally stratified, randomised controlled tests for coronavirus, such as those demanded by the IPE Institute for Policy Evaluation. This would require several thousand people to be systematically tested for SARS-CoV-2 every day, regardless of suspected cases or symptoms. The selection of study participants is made on a representative basis from all persons reported in Germany. The great advantage: the test results can be extrapolated to the total population and allow a regionally differentiated prognosis of infection rates according to population strata. With the help of the data basis thus collected, regionally specific containment measures are not only possible, but their success could also be continuously evaluated.
The mood curve: Recognizing the new reality of digitization
The collection of scientifically sound data to evaluate the measures taken in the fight against corona is clearly necessary. However, it only looks at one side of the coin. It must be just as important for decision-makers in politics and business to recognise the state of people and trends in opinion in good time and to know what fears and expectations they associate with the Corona crisis. Because only those who know the mood of the people and can anticipate opinion trends in good time are in a position to make reliable predictions and to make precise decisions and act on the basis of these predictions.
In order to be able to make reliable predictions from data, two components are needed: a strategic and a tactical component. A model from the market research institute concept m from March 2020, which was able to describe five globally identical phases of a pandemic in a first global psychological study, is suitable as a strategic component: Incubation – panic – depression – recollection – normalisation. A daily monitoring of the data can be used as a tactical component. This allows the forecasts to be continuously refined in terms of time and content. Only by combining both components is it possible to „get ahead of the situation“. The Institute for Strategy & Communication, ISK, has developed such a tactical component and applied it to the phase model. The data analyses thus made it possible to precisely analyse the state of citizens in Germany during the first three phases of the pandemic. Although the duration of the individual phases cannot be predicted (Italy seems to be in the depression phase longer than Austria), Germany „learns“ from others, such as China, how quickly the phase of depression can turn into a period of new consciousness and normalisation.
Whereas in the pre-digital age the depiction of these realities was supposed to be represented by spot-on research, today we can capture all statements on a topic on the web in the context of data analyses, because people move thematically on the web. The majority of their comments on the web and in social media are published and thus accessible for analysis in compliance with the DSGVO. This applies to online news and the comments, to tweets on Twitter, contributions to blogs or forums, review sites, YouTube etc. In order to know people’s moods and to derive evidence-based mood forecasts, i.e. to get ahead of the situation, the strategic component of the phase model and daily monitoring is needed to make the forecasts more precise in terms of content and time.
Evaluation competence: Arranging facts and figures correctly
Scientific evidence in the corona crisis is the action-relevant component for political decision-makers. But it is also there for the citizens of Germany. Ultimately, it is we who decide on the success or failure of the measures taken in the fight against Covid-19 through our behaviour. We don’t all have to become recreational virologists and hobby statisticians for this. But we have to become more competent when it comes to classifying the data and facts available to us and applying them to our behaviour. It is the responsibility of politicians to make this as easy as possible for us.