Fast Company

FOR SHOWING US WHAT WE NEED TO SEE

Lauren Gardner

Codirector of the Center for Systems Science and Engineering, Johns Hopkins University

“I DON’T WANT THIS JOB.”

It was late March, and Lauren Gardner, an engineer and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, was questioning her decision to create an online dashboard for tracking COVID-19 cases and deaths around the world. She and her team had spent a long night in January scanning local news sources in China, intending to create a data set that other researchers could utilize. Before posting a link to their work on Twitter, Gardner had decided to visualize the data on a map in order to make it easier to parse. “Humans are horrible at statistics,” she says, and “presenting raw numbers is really tricky.”

The response was electric. In a matter of weeks, the user-friendly dashboard had attracted users not just in pandemic command centers around the world—from Italy’s health ministry to Connecticut’s governor’s office to the White House—but on social media, where fellow scientists, journalists, and armchair virus trackers followed its rising case counts with growing alarm. As of mid-June, the dashboard has garnered 650 million cumulative page views, making it one of the most popular sites in the world.

But for Gardner, codirector of Johns Hopkins’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering

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