Private donation helps the University of Tartu continue analysing coronavirus data
Research groups of the University of Tartu led by Professor of Mathematical Statistics Krista Fischer and Professor of Bioinformatics Jaak Vilo who have supported the state with the data collection and analysis since the beginning of the corona crisis can continue their work thanks to a private donation by entrepreneur Väino Kaldoja.
When the corona crisis started in spring, researchers of the University of Tartu Jaak Vilo and Krista Fischer quickly mobilised more than a dozen people to gather information about the virus, analyse data and build prediction models. Surveys and the development of data analysis solutions started on koroona.ut.ee. The prompt start of research and development helped to define national risk scenarios for assessing the spread of the virus.
In spring, when the Estonian Research Council started to gather information about what researchers could do to solve the corona crisis, the first data analysis solutions by the University of Tartu researchers had already been approved by the ethics committee and introduced. At the beginning of July, when the Estonian Research Council opened the call for grant applications for one-year development projects funded from the target grants action, also the working groups of Fischer and Vilo submitted their applications. Regrettably, it was recently announced that neither grant application was funded. Discontinuing the research would have brought about a major gap in advising the state and a risk that the work started in spring would fall through.
However, many entrepreneurs also started to provide their advice and support to the state already at the beginning of the corona crisis. Now, an experienced entrepreneur Väino Kaldoja decided to lend his support to research, supporting the work of the research groups led by Fischer and Vilo with a total of 60,000 euros. The donation helps Fischer’s research group to continue creating the framework for modelling the spread of COVID-19 and assess the impact of intervention measures and Vilo’s research group to continue developing the koroona.ut.ee platform and data analysis solutions to better assess the spread of the virus and forecast the impact of measures.
Krista Fischer finds it very important that the decisions of the state be founded on rapidly collected data and adequate data analysis. “For our work to be sustainable and to increase the readiness for data analysis for the next waves of the virus as well as for new possible pandemics, the support to our working group is extremely important and we are very grateful for the donation,” said Fischer.
Jaak Vilo said that innovative solutions for collecting and analysing health data are first and foremost a result of teamwork. “I am happy that we can continue our work and develop and operate the necessary IT solutions further,” added Vilo.
According to Väino Kaldoja, we are living in a hope that the current situation will be solved and that the researchers will find the suitable weapons against the coronavirus. “Broadly speaking, it does not even matter what kind of a virus or a global problem we are facing. It is important to conduct research helping to understand the changes in people’s behaviour and decide on how to act in the new circumstances and which decisions to take in which order,” Kaldoja explained. “At the beginning of the pandemic, my wife Reet and I decided to provide material support to researchers who can describe these processes and draw conclusions. Together with our colleagues, we contributed to the fight against the coronavirus by providing an ambulance. People of Estonia have understood the severity of the situation, our leaders have made the right decisions, researchers do their part and this is how we can face the future with more courage,” said Kaldoja.
Rector of the University of Tartu Professor Toomas Asser said the university is very grateful to Väino Kaldoja for his personal donation to support these important research groups. “Private donations are still a rare occasion in the Estonian research, so it is gratifying to receive support in this complicated time when the state and the society need research-based solutions for coping with the corona crisis,” said Asser.
Jaak Vilo, Professor of Bioinformatics of the University of Tartu, Head of the Institute of Computer Science, Academician, 504 9365, jaak.vilo [ät] ut.ee
Krista Fischer, Professor of Mathematical Statistics of the University of Tartu, Senior Research Fellow of Biostatistics, 515 3679, krista.fischer [ät] ut.ee