Gaining a sense of control over the COVID-19 pandemic | A Winner’s Interview with Daniel Wolffram | by Kaggle Team | Kaggle Blog


Kaggle Team

How one Kaggler took high marks throughout a number of Covid-related challenges.

Photograph by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

At the moment we interview Daniel, whose notebooks earned him high marks in Kaggle’s CORD-19 challenges. Kaggle hosted a number of challenges that labored with the Kaggle CORD-19 dataset, and Daniel received 1st place 3 times, together with by an enormous margin within the TREC-COVID problem. (He had a rating of 0.9, 2nd place general had a rating of 0.75, and 2nd place on Kaggle had a rating of 0.6.)

Daniel: I’m Daniel Wolffram, a graduate pupil in arithmetic and an information science pupil assistant at Karlsruhe Institute of Know-how (KIT), in Germany. My analysis pursuits embody probabilistic forecasting, causal inference and machine studying.

As a part of the Kaggle CORD-19 problem I developed — a search engine for COVID-19 literature. Proper now, I’m engaged on the German COVID-19 forecast hub and writing my grasp thesis about constructing and evaluating forecast ensembles for COVID-19 demise counts.

Effectively, it’s no shock you took high marks within the CORD-19 Problem! That’s fairly related!

Daniel: Certainly. I’m additionally a pupil assistant the place I’ve labored on a number of information science initiatives for the final three years and had the chance to work with actual world information from completely different firms in extremely numerous domains — from predicting the waste in a sawmill to analyzing flaws within the means of floor galvanization and testing the effectivity of a advertising marketing campaign.

Throughout my time as a pupil assistant, we’ve additionally consulted an organization that works with quite a lot of textual content information — that’s the place I gained my first expertise in NLP and in addition got here throughout the thought of discovering related paperwork with the assistance of a subject mannequin. At the moment, our consumer wished to stay with one other method, so I by no means actually received to check out the LDA method, however it all the time stayed at the back of my thoughts.

How did you get began competing on Kaggle?

Throughout my undergraduate research I joined a college group the place we taught ourselves the fundamentals of knowledge science — principally by engaged on Kaggle initiatives such because the Titanic or Instacart problem. That’s additionally how I received my job as a pupil assistant, as a result of I met one among my now-colleagues there.

What made you resolve to enter this explicit competitors?

A good friend of mine confirmed me this competitors and I used to be excited instantly. I remembered the LDA method and simply wished to strive it out.

Furthermore, when the competitors was launched, Covid circumstances have been climbing in Germany, the place I reside. The primary protecting measures to flatten the curve have been taken right here — all eating places, retailers (besides supermarkets and drugstores) and leisure services have been closed. My college was closed and all exams received cancelled. Extra surprising have been the numbers from Italy and elsewhere. It was a really intimidating and unsure ambiance, so this problem was truly a option to acquire again some management by going through the disaster head on by merely utilizing my abilities for the most effective. I used to be conscious that it won’t have the most important affect, however what stored me going was the thought that if even one medical researcher makes use of my mannequin and stumbles upon one thing helpful, my efforts have been already price it.

What preprocessing and have engineering did you do?

To normalize the paperwork I eliminated cease phrases and carried out tokenization and lemmatization. This final step was quite vital right here, because the CORD-19 dataset comprises extremely technical papers with scientific language that may’t be processed efficiently by customary packages. It was essential to make use of scispacy, which is a package deal that’s specialised on processing biomedical, scientific or medical textual content and thus might additionally normalize technical phrases (reminiscent of chemical components, drug names, and so forth.).

For the subject mannequin to work correctly, it was additionally essential to carry out language detection and take away non-English paperwork.

All the main points may be present in my preprocessing pocket book:

To additional increase the information, I additionally searched every article for medical trial ids to hyperlink the doc to the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP), which required hand crafting a number of common expressions — the main points may be present in

What machine studying strategies did you employ?

I used Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), which is an unsupervised matter mannequin that learns hidden semantic relationships throughout the corpus. Initially, this was used to search out related articles for every process of the CORD-19 problem. However as we moved the method to our web site, we carried out a extra widespread search engine with Whoosh, that permits for classical key phrase searches or extra advanced boolean queries.

On the subject mannequin is now used to search out associated articles — the thought is that every article consists of a set of underlying subjects and if we discover articles with the same matter combination or an overlap in subjects, they may be fascinating for the reader and will spark new insights.

Subject combination of a particular paper and of a associated article
Click on by way of for interactivity:

Here you’ll be able to discover 50 subjects that our mannequin discovered throughout the corpus — every matter is a distribution over phrases and every doc can then be seen as a combination of those subjects.

What was your most essential perception into the information?

Earlier than eradicating the non-English articles from the corpus, curiously, the next subjects had been found by our matter mannequin:

  • Subject #46: der die und bei mit von eine ist werden zu für sind oder einer des den nicht das als nach zur auf durch auch ein
  • Subject #40: de les des en une est dans du par un ou sont pour plus au que avec chez sur d’une qui cas être pas ces
  • Subject #32: de en el los que se con las por un es para pacientes como más virus son tratamiento su infección puede ha casos enfermedad entre
  • Subject #7: un che con sono nel alla più ha tra gli degli come rischio ed pazienti nella nei osteonecrosis advert essere stato studio salute anche have

As you’ll be able to see, there was one for German, French, Spanish and Italian. To me this was very encouraging, as a result of it demonstrates how highly effective LDA is in studying hidden buildings and that it truly learns one thing significant.

Had been you shocked by any of your findings?

When folks first tried out our search engine, it turned clear that they solely seek for a couple of key phrases — not like the duties on Kaggle, that have been composed of rather more textual content. This was fairly an issue, as a result of the queries have been just too quick to deduce subjects in a helpful method. That’s after I determined to implement a extra widespread search engine with Whoosh as an preliminary search ( The subject mannequin is now solely used to search out associated articles which can be composed of comparable subjects, which permits customers to simply browse the corpus and uncover new insights.

How did you spend your time on this competitors?

As so typically, most of my efforts went into information preparation and cleansing, particularly to start with there have been many adjustments within the information construction which required quite a lot of changes. I’ve additionally learn so much within the discussion board and talked to some folks with medical background to determine wants of the group. That’s why we’re additionally extracting methodological key phrases as a primary high quality indicator and add cross references to medical trials which can be talked about within the papers. I’ve additionally spent an excellent period of time studying and determining new issues, reminiscent of language detection or constructing a customized search engine with Whoosh, which I’ve by no means performed earlier than.

What was the run time for each coaching and prediction of your profitable resolution?

Remodeling the paperwork and coaching the subject mannequin takes roughly a day.

How did your staff type?

I began out alone and constructed some widgets in a Kaggle pocket book to simply discover the CORD-19 dataset. However with the great suggestions and rising curiosity in my method, I wished to make it extra user-friendly, so it may be used and not using a technical background. That’s after I received in contact with one among my colleagues, who didn’t hesitate to help me and who assembled a small staff to construct our web site

How did your staff work collectively?

Two of my colleagues have been engaged on the backend and frontend, one other one received it up and operating on the server and my girlfriend got here up with the nice design and in addition animated our introduction video.

How did competing on a staff aid you succeed?

It undoubtedly helped me to construct a extra well-rounded resolution that’s user-friendly and accessible by anybody.

What’s your dream job?

I’m actually drawn to information science within the medical discipline, as a result of I want to use my analytical abilities in a significant mission that helps others. I believe that’s additionally what stored me going all through the CORD-19 problem — it was by no means about profitable, however extra about utilizing my strengths for the most effective and doing my half on this world disaster.

What have you ever taken away from this competitors?

It was a really significant mission to me and alongside the way in which I received to know many fascinating and provoking folks from everywhere in the world. It was nice to see how researchers from throughout the globe rushed collectively to go looking solutions to this world pandemic that impacts every one among us in numerous methods and paradoxically unites us all.

Do you’ve any recommendation for these simply getting began in information science?

Simply get began! I believe it’s essential to get sensible expertise and discover ways to deal with completely different varieties of knowledge, so you’ll be able to simply rework it to a format you’ll be able to work with. However as a math pupil, I additionally must say that you just shouldn’t neglect the basics reminiscent of chance idea and statistics, as a result of in any case information science is a science, so it’s essential to get an instinct about uncertainty and the restrictions of various approaches.

Additionally, I believe it’s all the time essential to first get a transparent understanding of the issue you are attempting to unravel, earlier than throwing probably the most advanced machine studying fashions on it.

You will discover Daniel’s profitable submission for CORD-19 right here:


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