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Ruben Durante and Salvador Soto Faraco awarded grants from the BBVA Foundation to conduct research into covid-19

Ruben Durante and Salvador Soto Faraco awarded grants from the BBVA Foundation to conduct research into covid-19

The UPF-ICREA research professors at the departments of Economics and Business and Information and Communication Technologies, respectively, are to analyse the evolution of income and consumption patterns of customers of financial institutions during the pandemic and the reliability of studies published on covid-19.

customers of financial institutions during the pandemic

05.10.2020

Imatge inicial

The BBVA Foundation recently resolved a special announcement for Grants to SARS-Cov-2 and covid-19 Teams, endowed with 2.7 million euros, to study different aspects of the pandemic in the fields of Biomedicine, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence; Ecology and Veterinary Science, Economics and Social Sciences and Humanities.

With this announcement, the BBVA Foundation seeks to find well-founded solutions to steer public policy and the behaviour of the economic and social agents. It will do so based on a multidisciplinary approach to the pandemic and its impact at various levels to dispose of the best tools with which to deal with future pandemics.

From among the nearly 1,000 research projects submitted to the call, twenty have been selected, including those of the two UPF researchers.

From among the nearly 1,000 research projects submitted to the call, five expert committees 20 have been selected, including those of UPF’s two ICREA research professors: Ruben Durante, of the Department of Economics and Business (“The Impact of COVID-19 on Income Inequality and Consumption Inequality in Spain: Real Time Evidence from Big Data"), endowed with 100,000 euros, within the scope of Economics and Social Sciences, and Salvador Soto Faraco, of the Department of Information and Communication Technologies ("COREVID: COronavirus Research EVIDence evaluation”), endowed with nearly 67,000 euros, within the Humanities.

Improving public policies applied to covid-19 based on real-time monitoring of massive data

The project led by Ruben Durante, with a team including researchers from the UPF Department of Economics and Business and of the IPEG, José García Montalvo and Marta Reynal-Querol, monitors aggregated, anonymous bank details of millions of customers (individuals and companies) of financial institutions in real time, with the aim of analysing the evolution of their income and consumption patterns.

Thus, using massive data processing techniques, they will be able to find out aspects such as the percentage of people who have seen their income decrease during the pandemic and by how much; or calculate how much social inequalities would have increased if public compensation mechanisms had not been implemented, such as furloughing or subsidies.

“The ultimate goal of the research is to create tools or an index to monitor these variables on a monthly basis to allow public leaders to take immediate action, without having to wait for longer periods, like the ones currently required for official statistics”, asserts Ruben Durante, who will be supported by the external collaboration of Luigi Guiso of the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance in Rome.

Analysing the reliability of studies published on covid-19

The covid-19 crisis has caused great social pressure to obtain solutions and has generated on the researchers an urgent demand for certainties that might help leaders to make decisions. But in order to generate robust evidence, time is needed. And speeding up study deadlines makes them less reliable due to a number of factors which act as biases that may lead to the publication of erroneous results. Some such factors could be the use of smaller samples, the relaxation of peer review or the premature release of results to the media.

In the words of Salvador Soto Faraco, “this project aims to use rigorous, recently created analytical techniques to analyse the reliability of studies published during the crisis in order to check whether the explosion of scientific production that has characterized this period has led to a higher rate of weak results precisely when solid knowledge is most needed”. To conduct their research, the coordinator of the DTIC’s Multisensory Research Group (MRG) will enjoy the support of Miguel Ángel Vadillo Nistal (Autonomous University of Madrid) and of Luis Morís Fernández, of the Center for Brain and Cognition (CBC).

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