AAG Webinar on Ethical Issues of Using Geospatial Data in Health Research

Webinar: Ethical Issues of Using Geospatial Data in Health Research or Policies During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond
Date and Time: Thursday, December 2, 2021 9:00 am – 11:00 am U.S. Eastern Time

Registration: https://aag-geoethics-series.secure-platform.com/a/solicitations/10/sessiongallery/200

This conversation is co-organized by AAG and the Institute of Space and Earth Information Science (ISEIS), at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). During this webinar you will first hear presentations from speakers who are longtime scholars in the field of health geography. Presentations from academic speakers will set the stage for a discussion with panelists who are non-academic stakeholders on this topic in and outside the U.S.

Advances in geospatial technologies and the availability of geospatial big data have enabled researchers to analyze and visualize geospatial data in great detail. Geospatial methods are now widely used to uncover the complex patterns of diverse social phenomena, such as human mobility and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, using or mapping individual-level confidential geospatial data (e.g., the locations of people’s residences and activities) involves certain risk of disclosure and privacy violation. Such risk of geoprivacy violation has recently become a widespread concern as many COVID-19 control measures (e.g., digital contact tracing; self-quarantine methods; and disclosure of location visited by infected persons) used by governments or public health agencies collected individual-level geospatial data. These COVID-19 control measures pose a particularly serious geoprivacy threat because recent advances in geospatial artificial intelligence (GeoAI) and high-performance computing may significantly increase the accuracy of spatial reverse engineering (e.g., by linking high-resolution geospatial data with other data such as census or survey data to discover the identity of specific individuals). On the other hand, false inference, such as false positives from facial recognition for example, can result in big consequences.

This webinar will focus on ethical issues of using geospatial data analytics in health research and practices, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The presentations will cover a wide range of topics, including uncertainties in analyzing relationships between disease spread and geographic environment, geoprivacy concerns for different COVID-19 control measures (e.g., digital contact tracing), addressing people’s concerns for geoprivacy in times of pandemics, IRB issues in health research during COVID-19, legal issues arose and policy implications of using individual-level confidential geospatial for controlling the spread of pandemics. Questions to be explored include: How can researchers protect people’s geoprivacy when using individual-level geospatial data to gain insights into the dynamics and patterns of infectious diseases? What disease control measures have higher risk of geoprivacy violation, which may significantly affect people’s acceptance of these measures and undermine their effectiveness in controlling the spread of COVID-19 or future pandemics? How can public health authorities balance the need for disease control and individual geoprivacy protection? What are the legal and technical issues in data sharing? How to minimize the unintended negative consequences such as the stigmatization of and discrimination against infected persons as a result of geoprivacy breaches or location disclosure?

Prof. Gao presents at the GIScience Research UK International Seminar Series

Beginning in 2021, GISRUK launched a series of international seminars celebrating innovation in Geographical Information Science, Chaired by Dr. Peter Mooney.

Dr. Song Gao was invited to give a seminar titled “GeoAI for Human Mobility Analytics and Location Privacy Protection” on 3rd November 2021.

Geographical Information Science Research UK (GISRUK) is the largest academic conference in Geographic Information Science in the UK. For the last 30 years, GISRUK has attracted international researchers and practitioners in GIS and related fields, including geography, data science, urban planning and computer science, to share and discuss the latest advances in spatial computing and analysis. The event in 2022 will be the 30th annual GISRUK conference. The conference will be held on the 5th – 8th April 2022 and hosted by the Geographic Data Science Lab and Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Liverpool. We look forward to welcoming you in person to the conference next year.

Prof. Gao joins the new NSF funded AI Institute: ICICLE

Today, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the establishment of 11 new NSF National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes. Each institute will receive $20 million for a total $220 million investment by NSF. Building off of seven institutes funded in 2020, the new program is meant to broaden access to AI to solve complex societal problems.

Prof. Song Gao joins the Institute for Intelligent Cyberinfrastructure with Computational Learning in the Environment (ICICLE).

Led by The Ohio State University, ICICLE will build the next generation of Cyberinfrastructure to render Artificial Intelligence (AI) more accessible to everyone and drive its further democratization in the larger society.

ICICLE will build and prove its system around three use-inspired science application domains: smart foodsheds, digital agriculture, and animal ecology. Analogous to watersheds, foodsheds define the geographical and human elements that affect how, when and where food is grown and consumed. Digital agriculture seeks to use technology to improve the yield and efficiency of crops, while animal ecology focuses on the roles of animals in agriculture and the environment.

More information on: https://icicle.ai/

Two COVID-19 research papers published in PNAS

  1. Xiao Hou, Song Gao*, Qin Li*, Yuhao Kang, Nan Chen, Kaiping Chen, Jinmeng Rao, Jordan S. Ellenberg, Jonathan A. Patz (2021) Intracounty modeling of COVID-19 infection with human mobility: Assessing spatial heterogeneity with business traffic, age, and race. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. June 15, 2021, 118 (24) e2020524118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2020524118

Abstract:

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global threat presenting health, economic, and social challenges that continue to escalate. Meta-population epidemic modeling studies in the susceptible–exposed–infectious–removed (SEIR) style have played important roles in informing public health policy making to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These models typically rely on a key assumption on the homogeneity of the population. This assumption certainly cannot be expected to hold true in real situations; various geographic, socioeconomic, and cultural environments affect the behaviors that drive the spread of COVID-19 in different communities. What’s more, variation of intracounty environments creates spatial heterogeneity of transmission in different regions (e.g., varying peak infection timing). To address this issue, we develop a human mobility flow-augmented stochastic SEIR-style epidemic modeling framework with the ability to distinguish different regions and their corresponding behaviors. This modeling framework is then combined with data assimilation and machine learning techniques to reconstruct the historical growth trajectories of COVID-19 confirmed cases in two counties in Wisconsin. The associations between the spread of COVID-19 and business foot traffic, race and ethnicity, and age structure are then investigated. The results reveal that, in a college town (Dane County), the most important heterogeneity is age structure, while, in a large city area (Milwaukee County), racial and ethnic heterogeneity becomes more apparent. Scenario studies further indicate a strong response of the spread rate to various reopening policies, which suggests that policy makers may need to take these heterogeneities into account very carefully when designing policies for mitigating the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and reopening.

2. Xiaoyi Han, Yilan Xu, Linlin Fan, Yi Huang, Minhong Xu, Song Gao. (2021) Quantifying COVID-19 importation risk in a dynamic network of domestic cities and international countries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. August 3, 2021, 118 (31) e2100201118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2100201118

Abstract:

Since its outbreak in December 2019, the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has spread to 191 countries and caused millions of deaths. Many countries have experienced multiple epidemic waves and faced containment pressures from both domestic and international transmission. In this study, we conduct a multiscale geographic analysis of the spread of COVID-19 in a policy-influenced dynamic network to quantify COVID-19 importation risk under different policy scenarios using evidence from China. Our spatial dynamic panel data (SDPD) model explicitly distinguishes the effects of travel flows from the effects of transmissibility within cities, across cities, and across national borders. We find that within-city transmission was the dominant transmission mechanism in China at the beginning of the outbreak and that all domestic transmission mechanisms were muted or significantly weakened before importation posed a threat. We identify effective containment policies by matching the change points of domestic and importation transmissibility parameters to the timing of various interventions. Our simulations suggest that importation risk is limited when domestic transmission is under control, but that cumulative cases would have been almost 13 times higher if domestic transmissibility had resurged to its precontainment level after importation and 32 times higher if domestic transmissibility had remained at its precontainment level since the outbreak. Our findings provide practical insights into infectious disease containment and call for collaborative and coordinated global suppression efforts.

Prof. Gao joins the Editorial Board of CaGIS and Scientific Reports

Recently, Prof. Gao was invited to serve on the Editorial Board for the following two journals:

Cartography and Geographic Information Science (CaGIS) is the official publication of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society. The Society supports research, education, and practices that improve the understanding, creation, analysis, and use of maps and geographic information. The CaGIS journal implements the objectives of the Society by publishing authoritative peer-reviewed articles that report on innovative research in cartography and geographic information science.

Scientific ReportsNature is an open access journal publishing original research from across all areas of the natural sciences.

Prof. Gao receives a new geospatial data science research grant

The American Family Insurance Data Science Institute (AFIDSI) is honored to announce the results of the new round of the American Family Funding Initiative, a research competition for data science projects. American Family Insurance has partnered with UW–Madison through the Institute to offer “mini grants” of $75k-to-150k per year for data science research. This is the second installation of a $10 million research agreement.

The goal of the American Family Funding Initiative is to stimulate and support highly innovative research. The successful projects, reviewed by faculty and staff from across UW-Madison campus, were evaluated based on their potential contributions to the field of data science, practical use and the novelty of their approaches.

AFIDSI brings people together to launch new research in data science and apply findings to solve problems. In collaboration with researchers across campus and beyond, AFIDSI focuses on the fundamentals of data science research and on translating that research into practice.

New projects funded in the second round of the American Family Funding Initiative include:

A Deep Learning Approach to User Location Privacy Protection
Principal Investigator: Song Gao, Assistant Professor of Geography.
Co-Principal Investigator: Jerry Zhu, Computer Sciences.

Location information is among the most sensitive data being collected by mobile apps, and users increasingly raise privacy concerns. The proposed research aims to develop a deep learning architecture that will protect users’ location privacy while keeping the capability for location-based business recommendations such as usage-based insurance (UBI).

Machine Learning Approaches for Metadata Standardization
Principal investigator: Colin Dewey, Professor of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics.
Co-Principal Investigator: Mark Craven, Biostatistics and Medical Informatics.

The need to manually standardize metadata describing records in large data sets, compiled from many sources, is a major bottleneck in both research and business. This project will develop machine learning approaches for automating metadata standardization and identifying records that would most benefit from expert human input.

Adaptive Operations Research and Data Modeling for Insurance Applications
Principal Investigator: Michael Ferris, Professor of Computer Sciences.

Insurance claims applications must be operated efficiently under normal conditions and allow for rapid reconfiguration in crisis situations. The proposed work will develop optimization models, data and solution processes to schedule resources over time, servicing normal workloads, while creating resilience to abrupt changes from random disturbances.

GAN-mixup: A New Approach to Improve Generalization in Machine Learning
Principal Investigator: Kangwook Lee, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Co-Principal Investigator: Dimitris Papailiopoulos, Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Recent machine learning successes rely on predictive models that adapt to previously unseen data. This research will provide a new approach to improve such generalization, with provable performance guarantees.

Integer Programming for Mixture Matrix Completion
Principal Investigator: Jeff Linderoth, Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Co-Principal Investigators: Jim Luedtke, Industrial and Systems Engineering; Daniel Pimentel-Alarcon, Biostatistics and Medical Informatics.

Matrix completion, or filling in the unknown entities in a matrix, is used in applications such as recommender systems and systems for analyzing visual images. This project will apply integer programming techniques to develop algorithms for solving a mixture matrix completion problem, paving the way towards applying this method to large-scale data science problems.

Developing a State-of-the-Science Regional Weather Forecasting System
Principal Investigator: Michael Morgan, Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.
Co-Principal Investigator: Brett Hoover, Space Science and Engineering Center.

This project will develop a weather prediction system for American Family Insurance, run entirely in cloud computing infrastructure, that will improve the accuracy of forecasting hazards such as hail and hurricanes. The probabilistic system will also estimate the uncertainty associated with the predictability of hazardous weather.

Model Recycling: Accelerating Machine Learning by Re-using Past Completions
Principal Investigator: Shivaram Venkataraman, Assistant Professor of Computer Sciences.
Co-Principal Investigator: Dimitris Papailiopoulos, Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Training machine learning models that are used in a wide range of domains, from drug discovery to recommendation engines, takes significant time and resources. This project will automate and accelerate this process of fine-tuning by reusing and sharing past computations from prior training jobs, using a technique called model recycling.

Additionally, two projects from the first round received continued funding:

Question Asking with Differing Knowledge and Goals
Principal investigator: Joe Austerweil, Assistant Professor of Psychology.

Despite tremendous progress in machine learning, automated answers to questions are still inferior to answers from humans. This project investigates whether incorporating psycholinguistic factors that influence how people respond to language can improve automated question-answering methods.

Lightweight Natural Language and Vision Algorithms for Data Analysis
Principal investigator: Vikas Singh, Professor of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics. Collaborators: Zhanpeng Zeng, Computer Sciences; Shailesh Acharya and Glenn Fung, American Family Insurance.

Natural language processing is a form of artificial intelligence that helps computers read and understand human language. The overarching goal of this project is to accelerate the time it takes to train and test efficient, accurate natural language processing models.

National Fellowships Engage Geospatial Research And Education On COVID-19

Projects address human mobility patterns, access to health care and food systems, racial and disability disparities during the pandemic.

The Geospatial Software Institute (GSI) Conceptualization Project has announced 16 fellowships to researchers at 13 institutions to tackle COVID-19 challenges using geospatial software and advanced capabilities in cyberinfrastructure and data science. Prof. Song Gao was selected as one of the geospatial fellows. A full list of the fellows, with biographies and project information, is at https://gsi.cigi.illinois.edu/geospatial-fellows-members/.

The GSI Conceptualization Project is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and carried out in partnership with the American Association of Geographers (AAG), Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), and University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS). Technical and cyberinfrastructure support are provided by the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies (CyberGIS Center)  at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

“The COVID-19 crisis has shown how critical it is to have cutting-edge geospatial software and cyberinfrastructure to tackle the pandemic’s many challenges,” said Shaowen Wang, the principal investigator of the NSF project and founding director of the CyberGIS Center. “We are extremely grateful for NSF’s support to fund this talented group of researchers, whose work is so diverse yet complementary.”

Michael Goodchild, chair of the NSF project advisory committee and professor emeritus in geography at UC-Santa Barbara, agreed. “Geospatial data and tools have enormous potential for helping us address the challenges of COVID-19, and these 16 Fellows have exactly the right qualifications and experience. I’m very excited to see what they are able to achieve.”

The Fellows come from varied professional, cultural, and institutional backgrounds, representing many disciplinary areas, including public health, food access, emergency management, housing and neighborhood change, and community-based mapping. The fellowship projects represent frontiers of emerging geospatial data science, including for example geospatial AI and deep learning, geovisualization, and advanced approaches to gathering and analyzing geospatial data.

Pioneered by multi-million dollar research funded by NSF, cyberGIS (i.e., cyber geographic information science and systems based on advanced computing and cyberinfrastructure) has emerged as a new generation of GIS, comprising a seamless integration of advanced cyberinfrastructure, GIS, and spatial analysis and modeling capabilities while leading to widespread research advances and broad societal impacts. Built on the progress made by cyberGIS-related communities, the GSI conceptualization project is charged with developing a strategic plan for a long-term hub of excellence in geospatial software infrastructure, one that can better address emergent issues of food security, ecology, emergency management, environmental research and stewardship, national security, public health, and more.

The Geospatial Fellows program will enable diverse researchers and educators to harness geospatial software and data at scale, in reproducible and transparent ways; and will contribute to the nation’s workforce capability and capacity to utilize geospatial big data and software for knowledge discovery. With a particular focus on COVID-19, the combined research findings of the Fellows will offer insight on how to make geospatial research computationally reproducible and transparent, while also developing novel methods, including analysis, simulation, and modeling, to study the spread and impacts of the virus. The Fellows’ research will substantially add to public understanding of the societal impacts of COVID-19 on different communities, assessing the social and spatial disparities of COVID-19 among vulnerable populations.

“I look forward to seeing the results of these projects, particularly as FAIR and open datasets, software, and models that others can then build on,” says Daniel S. Katz, Assistant Director for Scientific Software and Applications at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), the University of Illinois.

For more information about the GSI conceptualization project, see their website: https://gsi.cigi.illinois.edu/.

For a list of Geospatial Fellows and their projects, visit https://gsi.cigi.illinois.edu/geospatial-fellows-members/.

Prof. Gao received the 2020 Distinguished Honors Faculty Award

Each year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Letters & Science Honors Program solicits student nominations of faculty members (or instructional academic staff) who have had a special impact as teachers of Honors courses, as supervisors of Honors theses, or as teachers and mentors of Honors students. The Faculty Honors Committee reviews these nominations and votes to confer Distinguished Honors Faculty status on the strongest nominees for these awards each spring. Below, we recognize each of these incredible educators and thank them for their contributions to the lives of all students, but particularly those in the Honors program.

This year, Prof. Song Gao received the 2020 Distinguished Honors Faculty Award along with five other faculty members on campus.

Also, congrats to Timothy Prestby for finishing his L&S undergraduate honor thesis “Understanding Neighborhood Isolation Through Big Data Human Mobility Analytics”. Best wishes to his graduate school life at PSU Geography!

GeoDS Lab members won multiple awards in the AAG 2020 Annual Meeting

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The American Association of Geographers (AAG)  2020 Annual Conference was held online virtually. GeoDS Lab members participated the meeting and fortunately won several awards as follows.

Congratulations to Yuhao Kang who won the 1st place in the 2020 AAG GIS Specialty Group Annual Best Student Paper Competition and the 2020 AAG Cartography Specialty Group Master’s Thesis Research Grant.
http://aag-giss.org/2020-aag-geographic-information-science-and-systems-specialty-group-annual-student-paper-competition-winners/

https://aagcartography.wordpress.com/awards-competitions/masters-thesis-research-grant/

In addition, GeoDS Lab’s recent COVID-19 mapping work was awarded the winner of static mapping group for the “AAG Health and Medical Geography Health Data Visualization Contest”.

Also, GeoDS Lab’s recent COVID-19 work was featured by the AAG Newsletter:

http://news.aag.org/2020/03/geographers-act-on-covid19/

County-to-County- Spring Travel Flow Tracking