Humanitarian Institute


Masterclass in Public Health and Digital Disaster Response, 21st June 2018

18 May 2018

Convened by Dr Patty Kostkova, UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction. This masterclass is a unique opportunity to learn how to manage a public health emergency and respond to nature and manmade disasters using social media and digital data from senior international experts.


DATE AND TIME: Thursday, 21 June 2018, 10:00 - 17:00 BS

VENUE: UCL Chandler House Room 118 (10am until 5pm), Chandler House Room B02 (2-5pm)

Part 1: Public Health Emergencies

Led by Dr Arnold Bosman, Medical consultant in public health and founder of 'Transmissible'
LECTURE AND EXERCISE: Public Health is a discipline that addresses health at a population level. It is related to, yet quite different from clinical medicine: Public Health looks at groups of people, healthy as well as sick. In a way, the 'patient' is the community, at any level: local, regional, national and even international. In one interactive lecture and an emergency exercise, you will move through the key functions of Public Health and Emergency Preparedness. You will learn what public health professionals do to understand population health, and how they act on that information. Their tools include surveillance and research, to understand the distribution of disease in the population, and the factors that influence it. How do these tools perform in regular situations and in public health emergencies? By the end of the exercise, you will have a good understanding of the key functions of public health, in particular emergency response processes, who the main actors are, and the information needs of public health professionals. " 

Part 2: Digital Disaster Response

Led by Prof Carlos Castillo, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

LECTURE AND EXERCISE: Social media is an invaluable source of time-critical information during a crisis. However, emergency response and humanitarian relief organizations that would like to use this information struggle with an avalanche of social media messages that exceeds human capacity to process. In this session, we will approach this problem from two angles: first, from an automatic processing perspective, in terms of computational methods for classifying and filtering information; second, from a human factors perspective, in terms of how to apply digital volunteering and how to validate and visualize information. We will perform a hands-on exercise with tweets from actual disaster situations, to get a sense of the topics that are being discussed and the challenges of collaboratively annotating information.


9:30 Registration

10am Welcome from Dr Patty Kostkova

10:05 Lecture 1 - Public Health and Emergency - Arnold Bosman (1.15)

11:15 Coffee

11:30 Exercise 1, led by Arnold Bosman  (1.15)

12:45 Lunch

13:45 Lecture 2 - Digital Disasters - Carlos Castillo (1.15)

15:00 Coffee

15:15 Exercise 2, led by Carlos Castillo  (1.15h)

16:30 feedback / lessons learned (AB and CC)

17:00 end session

Speaker Profiles

Arnold Bosman


Arnold Bosman is a medical doctor and trained as an epidemiologist and medical consultant in public health. Until 2016 he headed the Public Health Training Section at the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control (ECDC). During the 10 years at ECDC he was leading the development of a new training programme in Public Health Microbiology 'EUPHEM', the design and development of an online community platform for public health information sharing 'FemWiki' and the design and development of the ECDC Virtual Academy 'EVA'. Prior to that he was chief scientific coordinator for the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training 'EPIET'. He has worked as senior consultant in outbreak response and project leader in surveillance at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment 'RIVM' in the Netherlands. Currently, Arnold is founder of Transmissible, a small enterprise for public health support, based in the Netherlands.

Carlos Castillo


Carlos Castillo is a Distinguished Research Professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. He is a web miner with a background on information retrieval, and has been influential in the areas of web content quality and credibility, and adversarial web search. He is a prolific researcher with more than 75 publications in top-tier international conferences and journals, receiving a test-of-time award, two best paper awards, two best student paper awards, and 11,000+  citations. His works include a book on Big Crisis Data, as well as monographs on Information and Influence Propagation, and Adversarial Web Search. Carlos received his Ph.D from the University of Chile (2004), and was a visiting scientist at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (2005) and Sapienza Universitá di Roma (2006) before working as a scientist and senior scientist at Yahoo! Research (2006-2012), as a senior scientist and principal scientist at Qatar Computing Research Institute (2012-2015), and as director of research for data science at Eurecat (2016-2017).

This masterclass is free to attend, but you need to register. Spaces are limited, so we ask that you only register if you can attend the full day. Note that you will need to complete a questionnaire in the week before the masterclass to confirm your registration

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