UC San Francisco and The Atlantic have announced that the COVID Tracking Project, a crowdsourced digital archive documenting the face of the pandemic in the United States, will become part of the University’s permanent library collection and is accessible to researchers and the public.
The project was a 15-month endeavor, powered by volunteers, to catalog statistics throughout the U.S. related to the pandemic in the face of limited data amid an urgent need to better understand the pandemic and protect the public.
“The Atlantic COVID Tracking Project is an inspiring example of a citizen crowdsourcing initiative that enabled democratization and transparency of science communications for the benefit of society,” said Polina Ilieva, Associate University Librarian for Collections, who oversees Archives and Special Collections kept by the University.
The project was originally conceived as a short-term undertaking, but quickly became an important source of information for journalists and health researchers. It is a vital part of the UCSF COVID-19 archival collection, said Ilieva, and will augment official university records from that time period.
In addition, she said, the collection inspires a reimagining of the preservation of history. “This project provides impetus for developing tools and new approaches for archiving collections, comprising diverse formats from instant messages to source code to emails as well as data sets,” Ilieva said.
The archive was created in conjunction with the California Digital Library and Dryad, an open-source data infrastructure. It joins other publicly-accessible UCSF archives on the tobacco industry, the opioid industry, and the food industry, which are used widely by researchers across the globe.