Indian scientists join the battle against COVID-19

Scientists in India are working on analyses and apps in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Several Indian scientists have come together to form a Google group to address some of the concerns that the COVID-19 outbreak has thrown up.

Indian Scientists’ Response to CoViD-19 (ISRC) is a voluntary group of scientists who regularly discuss the rapidly evolving situation with its dire need for science communication.

“The scientific community has a social and democratic responsibility in the current situation, both in terms of analysing the situation and reaching out to the public. While governmental bodies make their decisions and professional scientific academies take principled stands, there is a need for individuals in the scientific community to also help individually and collectively,” says R. Ramanujam, the spokesperson of the group and a computer scientist with The Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai.

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With nearly 200 members, the group has scientists from institutions such as the NCBS, the IISc, the TIFR, the IITs, the IISERs and many others.

The group aims to study existing and available data to bring out analyses that will support the Central, State and local governments in carrying out their tasks. Several working groups have been formed by the scientists. They include one on hoax busting to address disinformation spreading with respect to the coronavirus and one on science popularisation to develop material that explains concepts such as home quarantine. Other groups work on resources in Indian languages, mathematical models and apps.

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“The group is not a forum for medical advice, and definitely no unverified claims. All analysis should be evidence-based,” the group says. It is active on Twitter with the handle @IndSciCOVID, which is managed by Reeteka Sud, who works in genomics and stem cells at NIMHANS, Bengaluru.

Sutirth Dey, an evolutionary biologist based in Pune and editor of Confluence, an online forum provided by the Indian Academy of Sciences, has made available translations in 15 languages of the e-book, The Pandemic Notebook, which was originally published by The Hindu in English.

Mapping spaces

One of the ideas discussed by the group is to develop an app that can map spaces that can be used as shelters and share the data with the State government.

“We have got in touch with the Tamil Nadu State Health Systems Reforms Office and told them that we are willing to develop any app that they feel the need for,”says K.V. Subrahmanyam, a computer scientist with The Chennai Mathematical Institute.

Kameswari Chebrolu, a faculty member from the department of computer science at IIT Bombay, has helped adapt a platform she developed along with graduate students over the past two years to help in the present crisis.

This platform works through two channels — phone and WhatsApp to connect people in need with those who can provide help. In the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, it can connect patients or people with symptoms to doctors. It may also connect elderly people with volunteers from NGOs to assist in chores such as grocery shopping. Currently, the group is in talks with King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai towards developing this service for them. “We expect that the platform and apps will be functional by early next week,” says Prof. Chebrolu.

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Printable version | May 19, 2021 3:24:50 AM |

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