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LEAD – LEarning from the pAst

Implementation of the data & visualization hub LEAD: Digitized past pandemics in Switzerland

Project state


Project start

April 2022

Funding duration

14 month

Universities involved


Practice partner

Funding amount DIZH

CHF 77'000

When new health crises emerge, such as the Covid 19 pandemic, people tend to place current events in the context of past experiences. To do this, however, societies need a collective memory for pandemics. In Switzerland, these past pandemic experiences have been under-researched and are not present. The aim of the project was to lay the foundation for processing scenarios from past Swiss pandemics, visualizing them and making them accessible to a broad audience as data stories. For this purpose, we have digitized large amounts of historical data over the past years (and we continue to digitize). Thanks to the DIZH project, we were able to develop a data and communication hub (prototype) that is publicly accessible to all: LEAD (Lessons from the Past – Digitized Health Data in Switzerland) is on the one hand an Open Research Data Hub, where data on Swiss health history can be accessed; in the next few years, more data sets on health history in Switzerland since 1800 will be made available. On the other hand, LEAD is also a communication hub where selected scenarios from Swiss health history are presented journalistically and interactively in the form of data stories. By means of DIZH funding, a Data Scientist could be hired at UZH, who programmed and designed LEAD from scratch. Also, thanks to DIZH funding, two selected data stories could be produced at the ZHAW: 1) on the 1918 Spanish flu in Zurich; 2) on the 1957 pandemic in Switzerland. With the LEAD Hub, we have created an ideal basis to publish more datasets and data stories there in the future. In this way, we want to increase visibility and awareness of past pandemics in Switzerland.

Dr. Kaspar Staub, UZH Institute of Evolutionary Medicine (IEM)

Dr. Maryam Kordi, UZH Institute of Evolutionary Medicine (IEM)

Dr. Oliver Grübner, UZH Department of Geography

Dr. Joel Floris, UZH Forschungsstelle für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte

Dr. Verena Lechner, ZHAW Angewandte Linguistik

Prof. Dr. Wibke Weber, ZHAW Angewandte Linguistik

Call type: 1. Rapid Action Call