The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

NOTES FROM THE FIELD: DANIEL LIN '23

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Daniel Lin '23 interned at The COVID Tracking Project during the 2020 fall term. The following is an excerpt from his internship report.

This past fall, I interned at The COVID Tracking Project, a national volunteer organization that collects, researches, and publishes the most complete data about COVID-19 for US states and territories. Our data is widely cited by science journals and news outlets and is used by numerous states in deciding re-opening measures. During my internship, I led multiple data entry shifts per week, helped maintain a high-quality dataset, and developed and implemented internal processes to maximize efficiency within the organization to ultimately provide clear and accurate data for the public. 

When leading data entry shifts, I organized a group of 10-16 volunteers that changed each day to manually scrape state and territorial COVID-19 websites for data. During these shifts, in addition to double-checking volunteers’ work, I answered volunteers’ questions, made final decisions when faced with anomalous state reporting, and drafted/revised public notes that are posted to our website. I also facilitated communication with our editorial team who releases tweets along with our daily data update. Outside data entry shifts, I contributed heavily to our Data Quality team by drafting outreach questions to state health officials, backfilling missing values in our dataset, and responding to email inquiries. To supplement our data, I worked extensively to maintain accurate metadata for each datapoint, researching state annotations for different types of testing, units, and outcomes while maintaining a Data Quality Log that tracks state anomalies, backfills, and other changes within our data. This work involved collaboration with a separate team of volunteers and team-leads to make nuanced decisions and to ensure accuracy and precision along the way. In doing this work, I developed numerous project management, software development, and editorial skills that are applicable to any occupation. I drafted, pitched, and revised process and data proposals, integrated software tools, and engaged deeply with complex data. These experiences and more have opened numerous occupational doors that I can take advantage of in the future. 

Above all, I appreciate the relationships I formed during my time with The COVID Tracking Project. Every other week, I had the opportunity to engage in an hour-long Zoom call with various individuals from different areas of the project. As this multi-faceted project is largely volunteer-based, many of the people who work on The COVID Tracking Project have full-time day jobs in a variety of fields. I had the chance to speak with epidemiologists, reporters, project managers, and other mid-career individuals. They answered my questions honestly and gave me career advice that would be applicable in any field. My internship helped me realize that beyond the actual work in whatever occupation I end up doing, I desire to work with a positive, supportive community that I enjoy being around. 

Thank you to the Rockefeller Center for awarding me this grant to pursue my unpaid internship with The COVID Tracking Project. This truly allowed me to discover more about myself, academically and occupationally. 

The Rockefeller Internships Program has funding for Dartmouth undergraduate students to help defray the cost of living expenses associated with a full-time, unpaid, leave-term internships in the fields of public policy, public affairs, and social entrepreneurship.

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