UCSF Archives & Special Collections awarded grant to archive data, documents, and social media of The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic

UCSF Archives & Special Collections (A&SC) has been awarded a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to compile and archive the data products, public websites, social media, and select internal documents of The COVID Tracking Project (CTP). The project was a citizen-science initiative housed by The Atlantic magazine which tracked COVID data from March 7, 2020 to March 7, 2021. It had a tremendous impact on public, media, scientific, and governmental understanding of and response to the pandemic. This $249,866 grant will help preserve the products and culture of a unique organization created in difficult times.

Products produced by the CTP include testing, outcomes, and hospitalization data that was used by thousands of news organizations and millions of individuals to understand the early phases of the pandemic. The project’s Racial Data Tracker and Long-term Care Tracker highlighted the different ways the pandemic was impacting people of color and residents of nursing homes and similar facilities. Funding from the grant will help ensure these critical datasets are preserved in Dryad and immediately available to researchers in public health.

As an organization that existed only online, archiving the project will require new approaches to storing data from tools like Slack, Github issues, and Google drive. Unlike digital files similar to a Microsoft Word document, data in these tools have multiple levels of interface and context that is not easily preserved. The grant will support developing tools for archiving these rapidly-adopted forms of communication, and making them open source for other archiving projects.

Every datapoint collected by the project was the result of multiple discussions, revisions, and public inquiry. Capturing the entire history of say, the total number of tests in California on November 22, 2020 requires reviewing Slack threads, Github issues, emails, spreadsheet revisions, and unique tools built by tracking project members. The grant will help build a “Data Explorer” that pulls all these disparate metadata into a single web interface for researchers to understand the many contexts around every datapoint collected by the project.

“We’re extremely proud to support a digital preservation project capturing a remarkable record of online collaboration that also provides a unique blueprint for future archiving initiatives,” says Joshua Greenberg, director of the Sloan Foundation’s technology program. “The team is doing more than just creating a rich and valuable repository of a historic moment—it is generating novel and much-needed methods of storing information from modern technology platforms, an approach that will become invaluable as online collaborations increasingly become the norm.”

This 12-month project is being launched in January 2022 and will be overseen by an advisory board composed of former project staff and advisors with backgrounds in data science, medicine, history, and epidemiology. A&SC would like to thank Amanda L. French, Ph.D., former Community Lead at the COVID Tracking Project and other supporters for their help with this proposal. Kevin Miller will serve as an archive lead for this grant project

About the Sloan Foundation

Logo of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a not-for-profit, mission-driven grantmaking institution dedicated to improving the welfare of all through the advancement of scientific knowledge. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in four broad areas: direct support of research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics; initiatives to increase the quality, equity, diversity, and inclusiveness of scientific institutions and the science workforce; projects to develop or leverage technology to empower research; and efforts to enhance and deepen public engagement with science and scientists.

About UCSF Archives & Special Collections

The mission of the UCSF Archives and Special Collections is to identify, collect, organize, interpret, and maintain rare and unique material to support research and teaching of the health sciences and medical humanities and to preserve institutional memory. Please contact Polina Ilieva, Associate University Librarian for Collections with questions about this award.

New NHPRC Grant Will Bring to Light Stories of Women Physicians and Social Workers

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UCSF Archives & Special Collections (A&SC) is excited to announce that it was awarded a grant by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) in support of the project titled Pioneering Child Studies: Digitizing and Providing Access to Collection of Women Physicians who Spearheaded Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics.

The $149,814 award will support the creation of a digital collection on Calisphere containing materials from five collections held at UCSF documenting life and work of five women physicians and social workers, Drs. Hulda Evelyn Thelander, Helen Fahl Gofman, Selma Fraiberg, Leona Mayer Bayer, and Ms. Carol Hardgrove, who were pioneers in the developmental-behavioral pediatrics research, patient care, and public-health policy. These materials will enable researchers and general public to understand evolution of social policy and cultural norms as they relate to special education, people with disabilities, and equitable access to health care.

Dr. Selma Fraiberg

In her support letter for this project Dr. Alicia F. Lieberman, the Irving B. Harris Endowed Chair in Infant Mental Health and Vice Chair for Academic Affairs at the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, and Director of the Child Trauma Research Program stressed that this grant is extraordinarily timely because these women physicians and social workers “have been trailblazers in creating new knowledge and revolutionizing clinical care, but their contributions are at risk of being neglected or overlooked. These five women excelled against enormous odds in fields where women had difficulty establishing their own independent contributions, and the long-term ramifications of their work continue to benefit millions of children worldwide.”

A relatively new field in medicine, developmental-behavioral pediatrics came out of an increased demand for mental health services in pediatric care starting in the 1920s. While infant and child mortality rates declined in part due to public health campaigns and medical breakthroughs, concerns over behavioral problems and developmental delays grew as pediatrics began to look beyond mere survival and started to consider the whole child.

Dr. Leona Mayer Bayer

“These five women,” says Dr. Jeffrey L. Edleson, Professor and Harry & Riva Specht Chair Emeritus in Publicly Supported Social Services in the School of Social Welfare at the UC Berkeley, “studied and practiced in the same time period and were instrumental in establishing and developing training programs for pediatricians, nurses, and social workers. All of them also published works for the general public addressing issues that emerged at that time and continue to be discussed today, including the role of the mother in the early life of the child, emotional life of children and the importance of including the whole family in pediatric patient care.

 A digital collection unifying the records of these five remarkable women scholars […] will benefit historians of medicine and public health, sociologists, educators, social workers, policymakers, health care providers, patient advocates, and parents.”

 Carol Hardgrove with unidentified colleagues
Carol Hardgrove with unidentified colleagues

Documents from these five collections often illustrate the work of their creators on the same or similar projects and collaboration between the creators; these will be digitally “reunited” in the course of the grant by being posted on the same digital platform, Calisphere and being linked through extended metadata. They speak to the contribution women made early on in developmental-behavioral pediatric clinical research through the papers of Dr. Thelander. In 1952, she founded the Child Development Center at the Children’s Hospital of San Francisco where she conducted studies on children with brain-damage and general pediatric neurology. These women were influential in the training of pediatricians as documented by the records of Dr. Gofman. Since 1966 she served as a director of the Child Study Unit at UCSF, one of the first training programs in behavioral pediatrics in the US. The papers of Dr. Fraiberg document several important aspects of developmental-behavioral pediatrics, including the influence of psychoanalysis on the field and her groundbreaking work on intergenerational transmission of trauma. These women were also instrumental in the evolution of pediatric nursing. Ms. Carol Hardgrove collection documents her role as an educator with the School of Nursing and Child Care/Study Center who authored many works dealing with children and parents and the hospital experience. The collection also features professional correspondence of Dr. Leona Mayer Bayer whose life’s work was focused on child development and in particular human growth and psychology of sick children.

 Hulda Evelyn Thelander
Dr. Hulda Evelyn Thelander

According to Dr. Andrew J. Hogan, Associate Professor and Director of the Science and Medicine in Society Program at Creighton University, “Filling in these silences and gaps in the historical records, by making available more widely their various ideas, aspirations, and institutional negotiations, will allow this story to be told in much fuller detail. Gofman, Thelander, and others’ stories are likely to inspire another generation of groundbreaking young physicians to organize care for populations in need. It will be valuable for students and researchers to learn more about the many challenges that these women physicians faced, and how they overcame them to provide improved resources and support for children with behavioral and developmental conditions and disabilities, a population that was historically overlooked in pediatrics, especially in the mid-20th century, when these women were professionally active.”

As part of this project UCSF archivists will engage with communities of women physicians, researchers, and health care providers, discussing how to document their voices that have been underrepresented, absent, or excluded from the history in general and history of their institutions (including UCSF) or professions in particular. By collecting their stories and learning how to document and share them, we will create a more inclusive and equitable historical record.

Helen Gofman, MD, playing with girl with tea set and toys
Helen Gofman, MD, playing with girl with tea set and toys

This 24-month project was launched in September and will be managed by our processing archivist, Edith Escobedo. The materials will be digitized by the UC Merced Library’s Digital Assets Unit that has been partnering with UCSF on successful collaborative digitization projects for more than 10 years. 

A&SC would like to thank the National Historical Publications & Records Commission; the California Historical Records Advisory Board; Dr. Aimee Medeiros, assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Science at UCSF; Emily Lin, Head of Digital Curation and Scholarship, UC Merced Library; and other supporters for their help with this proposal.

About UCSF Archives & Special Collections

The mission of the UCSF Archives and Special Collections is to identify, collect, organize, interpret, and maintain rare and unique material to support research and teaching of the health sciences and medical humanities and to preserve institutional memory. Please contact Polina Ilieva, Associate University Librarian for Collections with questions about this award.

Kevin Miller Joins the UCSF Archives Team

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The UCSF Archives & Special Collections is excited to welcome our new colleague, Kevin Miller who was appointed as the COVID Tracking Project Archive Lead. He will direct a team, comprising of Charlie Macquarie and Edith Escobedo, to preserve and provide online access to the entirely born-digital organizational records and datasets of the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic (CTP) to make this archive usable by researchers and to advance current practices in digital archives.

Kevin Miller picture
Kevin Miller

Kevin was the Website Team Lead of the COVID Tracking Project, managing a large group of volunteers building and maintaining one of the most critical sources of information during the first year of the pandemic. He worked alongside hundreds of researchers, epidemiologists, reporters, and passionate individuals to help make interfaces and write articles that ultimately informed public policy at the state and national level.

He received a Bachelor of Arts in Social History in one of the earliest graduating classes of Cal State Monterey Bay, and worked for the University for twelve years as its only web developer. During that time, he collaborated on several projects with the university library and special collections. He is passionate about web accessibility and has built several open-source tools that audit web content against current standards.

He was a founding archivist of the Fort Ord Museum and Archives and volunteered with the Monterey Maritime Museum on auditing their collection. He worked as an archival researcher for the book “Work or Fight!” on race and gender in the draft during World War I.

When he is not in front of the computer, he can be found outside somewhere backpacking, canyoneering, surfing, biking, river rafting, or trying to combine several of these activities into one outing with mixed success.