Senior statistics majors collaborate on a project with the United Nations

Students in the Statistics Practicum capstone class worked with members of the United Nations Civil Society Unit to analyze data from an international survey on misinformation about COVID-19.

As part of the Statistics Practicum class this fall, seven senior statistics majors collaborated on a project with researchers from the United Nations.

The Civil Society Unit of the U.N. surveyed representatives from international non-governmental organizations about misinformation that they had heard or received concerning COVID-19. The survey was conducted online between April and August 2020.

The students and their U.N. collaborators participated in a project kick-off meeting in August via Microsoft Teams. The students then spent the next month analyzing the data. The primary focus of the analysis revolved around two open-ended text fields that captured the nature and sources of the misinformation reported. Many of the text entries had to first be translated into English using an online software package. In October, the students met again via Teams with a larger group of U.N. representatives to present their results, which included an online app that allows a user to summarize the misinformation types by region or individual country.

The senior statistics majors who worked together on this project are Isabel Bufton, Will Cooper, Sam Greenberg, Cara Linder, Hannaleigh Pierce, Samantha Polese and Jacob Wheeler. Mark Weaver, assistant professor of statistics, led this class. Weaver collaborated with Kathryn Good, programme management officer of the Civil Society Unit, to conceive this joint project.