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Dr Jonathan Cinnamon

Exeter research wins Elsevier Atlas prize

A University of Exeter research paper on using mobile phones to manage disease outbreaks has won a prestigious prize.

The Elsevier Atlas prize is given to work which could “significantly impact people's lives around the world or has already done so”.

Human Geography Lecturer Dr Jonathan Cinnamon was lead author on the paper, which is entitled: “Evidence and future potential of mobile phone data for disease disaster management”.

The co-authors were Sarah Jones, of King’s College London, and Professor Neil Adger, of the University of Exeter.

Representatives from Elsevier visited Exeter today to present Dr Cinnamon with the prize.

Dr Cinnamon said: “I’m very pleased to accept the Atlas award on behalf of my co-authors. We are thankful to Elsevier and the advisory board for recognizing the social impact of this research.

“The aim of this research was to develop a knowledge base regarding the potential role of mobile phone data in disaster management related to communicable disease outbreaks.

“There has been significant hype around the expansion of mobile phones in the Global South, as well as concern and fear in the public and media about the global spread of contagious diseases such as Ebola.

“These parallel developments have led to substantial interest in mobile phone data produced passively (call detail records) and actively (two-way crowdsourcing) for disaster management, especially in settings with limited access to conventional sources of social and spatial data.”

The results of this study identified the huge potential of these data sources at all stages of disease-related disaster management – for predicting outbreak locations, understanding populations at risk and collecting real-time information on confirmed and suspected disease cases and resource requirements.

The article also documents the key barriers to uptake, as well as important social and ethical concerns that stakeholders must consider in order to realise the full potential of these data sources.

“Given the relevance of this knowledge outside the academic sphere and in the Global South, we are especially excited about the article being made open access as part of the Atlas initiative,” said Dr Cinnamon.

“This article will now be more widely available not only to researchers but also to those on the front lines of humanitarian emergencies, communicable disease outbreaks and disaster management.

“Knowledge that could have significant and direct impact on society must be free and accessible to all – we are therefore delighted to see that Elsevier has started the Atlas initiative, which we hope will be part of a broader movement towards equitable access to knowledge.”

The paper, published in the journal Geoforum, was selected from thousands of recently published articles to receive the Elsevier Atlas, which is given once a month to a piece of research published from across Elsevier’s 1,800 journals.

Date: 13 December 2016

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