The Professionals Cohort (Indiana)
Micah Pollak still remembers his first tweet about COVID-19 data in Indiana from March 22.
Indiana launched a poorly-formatted red-dot map, with one red dot for every county that had reported cases with no other information, as the only initial public resource for the public.
“I was looking back at some of my earliest Tweets on Covid and one was something like ‘I couldn’t find the graph I wanted so I made it myself,’ and I think that captures why a lot of us got into this in the first place,” Micah said.
What the state was putting out wasn’t enough.
Micah found the data presentation inadequate, sometimes misleading, and not answering urgent, basic questions. So he started exploring data on his own and then shared his analysis on Twitter, not expecting it to pick up the popularity or following he now has.
Micah is an associate professor of economics and the Director of the Center for Economic Education & Research (CEER) at Indiana University Northwest. So epidemiology was outside of his comfort zone, he said. What he did feel comfortable doing, though, was advanced statistics and data communication about what was happening.
“With so much happening outside our control during this global pandemic, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless,” Micah said. “By analyzing and reporting on COVID-19 data, with a special focus on my state and local region, I can empower people through a better understanding of what is happening in the world around them to regain their confidence and make informed decisions about their daily life.”
He’s passionate about education and serving his community, and sees his time during COVID-19 as an effort in cutting through the chaos and conspiracies to bring valuable data and analysis to the forefront.
He’d be remiss not to mention his frequent partner-in-data, Gabriel Bosslet, another one of our nominees in our Specialists group.
A few words from those who nominated Micah:
“Takes what is sometimes dry, confusing, gobblygook information and makes it interesting and easy to understand, and includes some much needed levity during these trying times.”
“The state of Indiana has not provided reliable information and Micah put everything in perspective as a parent, family member, and professional. “