2022 Shortlist

With or without a vaccine: what can I do safely where I live?

Country/area: Portugal

Organisation: Público

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 30/6/2021

Credit: Rui Barros, Ivo Neto, Dinis Correia, Pedro M. Teixeira

Biography: Rui Barros is a data journalist/ journocoder/ news nerd currently working at PÚBLICO, a daily newspaper in Portugal.

Project description:

When Portugal had already reached more than half of its population completely vaccinated, the restriction in place became less rigid. But doing one of those activities that everyone missed so much now meant asking: how safe if it? Should I do it? In collaboration with a local university, PÚBLICO developed a risk assessment tool to help with that decision.

Impact reached:

The project was seen by the public as a precious tool for informed decision-making. Because it allowed people to measure on a qualitative scale how safe such activity was, it attracted a lot of traffic, since we understood that the readers were using the tool to plan their activities.

Techniques/technologies used:

The algorithm started to be drafted by University of Minho professor Pedro Teixeira using google sheets. That same algorithm was then turned into javascript. Since one of the key features of the model was the number of cases in every single municipality, PÚBLICO’s data journalist developed a scraper to fetch the latest data. A GitHub action was created to assure that the data was updated every day. The news application was developed using svelte and it was done so that the text was adjusted to the reader’s provided information. All visualizations were developed using d3.js

What was the hardest part of this project?

We wanted the tool to be the most scientifically accurate and we wanted it to be useful enough so that people not only knew how high/low was the risk of a certain activity, but also what they could do to make it safer. That meant asking a series of questions about the activity itself (for example: if you wanted to go to a restaurant, the tool would ask you how many people were going, if it was indoors/outdoors) but also giving some extra advice about how to make it safer.

What can others learn from this project?

It can sound like a cliche, but I’ve learned with this project that a data journalist should do the news applications that he wished he had as a reader. I felt like I had no idea if something I wanted to do again was safe or not. Having only one dose of the vaccine at the moment of publication, I remember spending a huge amount of time asking myself if a specific thing I wanted to do was safe or not. And if I was doing it, what were the things that I could do to make it safer. “If only there was a tool to help me with that decision”, I remember thinking at the time. The next step was: well, why not build it myself?

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