Cloud assistance for Maltese COVID-19 study

How do COVID-19 measures affect our wellbeing? And how will a persons’ emotional status influence to which degree he or she complies with government regulation during a pandemic?

These are the basic questions that Dr. Claude Bajada at the University of Malta is set to investigate. In 2020, he was contacted by researchers involved in an international study. They requested data from Malta to be included in their study. After having provided the data, Claude Bajada came up with ideas on how to analyse the large dataset through use of machine learning techniques.

Fighting Goliath – with success

Still, the road forward was not straightforward. As so often, the two limiting factors for initiating a research project proved to be human resources and infrastructure.

“As a researcher from a small country, I find myself fighting Goliath in the shape of institutions from larger countries when I am applying for funding,” Claude Bajada notes.

However, just as David did bring down his mighty adversary, Dr. Bajada prevailed and is now heading a research team. The funding has come from the European Union project Open Clouds for Research Environments (OCRE). Behind the EU project is a consortium consisting of European regional R & E network organisation GÉANT, the leading international physics organisation CERN, provider of Earth Observation data handling RHEA, and digital community builder Trust-IT Services.

OCRE supports state-of-the-art research and explores new ways for procuring, funding and using in-demand digital solutions while benefitting from volume discounts. In short, this allows research institutions to avoid bureaucratic barriers that prevent researchers from easy access to cloud services.

Sometimes you need a spark

The overall goal of OCRE is the piloting of a single digital market for cloud and digital services for European research. Here, the distribution of cloud adoption funding is a key component.

“Applying for support was quite simple. I set up a single project with a single aim. The project would just not have been possible without the support from OCRE. Besides the necessary funding, they gave me the push that I needed to set up a group around the idea. Sometimes you need a spark to get off the ground,” says Claude Bajada.

The support from OCRE will first of all provide the necessary resources in terms of cloud computing, allowing the Maltese team to carry out the machine learning analysis they envision:

“How much are governments able to control behaviour and encourage pro-social practices such as hand washing during the pandemic? And consequently, how much behaviour is determined by emotional wellbeing and personality?”

Published: 06/2021

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