June 22, 2020

AI is helping scientists sort through heaps of coronavirus research

The tools are vital, because the mountain of medical research on COVID-19 is growing.

The global race to develop a coronavirus vaccine is creating an enormous pile of medical research — and scientists are turning to AI tools to make sense of it.

They’ll need all the help they can get

The machine-learning company Primer AI created a coronavirus dashboard that tracks scientific papers on COVID-19. It divides the papers (~29k so far) into categories, and tracks which topics, terms, and authors are trending.

It also lets you see which papers are getting the most traction on social media.

But you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to understand why “most talked-about on Twitter” might be dicey: A Primer AI expert told Axios that the most shared papers are also the most controversial ones.

They tend to be preprints — work that isn’t yet peer-reviewed. The 2nd most-shared paper, which claimed to find similarities between the new coronavirus and HIV, was withdrawn after experts tore it apart.

It ain’t perfect, but it’s something

One emergency-medicine doctor told Nature that she used the dashboard to inform protocols for UC-San Francisco’s hospital. In the chaos of daily operations, she said, “the Primer app was actually a really amazing way to cut through the noise.”

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