Data needs during the COVID-19 crisis

Wednesday 27 April, 2022, 12h-13h30 CET

About the webinar

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for the scientific community. Belgian researchers have increasingly gained insight in procedures and tools needed to navigate this crisis and in this process, data has been vital to understand, manage and prevent the spread of the virus and its pervasive consequences. With creative approaches and unique collaborations, several data problems have been solved successfully. Other data needs, however, have remained unfulfilled. 

This webinar focused on potential obstacles and gaps in the available research infrastructure but it also provides examples of innovative data use and research opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis. This knowledge may be instrumental for the ongoing COVID-19 research, as well as for managing potential future health crises. Together with the audience, we also discussed the challenging balancing act between data accessibility and data security.

This webinar was organised jointly with the AHEAD project ("Towards the development of a National Health Data Platform").


12h00 Welcome & Introduction
— Prof. Dr. Brecht Devleesschauwer, Sciensano
12h05 Pandemic preparedness: the need for better data from a modelling perspective
— Prof. Dr. Niel Hens, University Hasselt and University Antwerp
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12h25 European perspective on COVID-19 data and comparability
— Dr. Nienke Schutte, Sciensano-PHIRI
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12h45 Data protection and research in (post)-COVID times
— Dr. Laura Van den Borre, VUB & Sciensano
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13h05 Closing remarks
— Patrick Lusyne, Statbel
13h10 Discussion


Niel Hens
Niel Hens

Niel Hens received a master degree in mathematics and a master of science and PhD degree in biostatistics. Since 2009 he is holder of the chair of evidence-based vaccinology at the University of Antwerp. He published work at the intersection between statistics and mathematical epidemiology focussed on bridging the gap between mathematical and statistical methods in infectious disease epidemiology. Niel Hens is the current director of the Data Science Institute at Hasselt University. He currently coordinates the H2020 EpiPose project aimed at studying the covid-19 pandemic, he participates as PI in the H2020 VERDI project aimed at studying the impact of COVID-19 in children and pregnant women, and he is advising the Belgian government on managing the COVID-19 pandemic (former member of the GEES, current member of GEMS).

Nienke Schutte
Nienke Schutte

Nienke Schutte is working in the EU health information system Unit at Sciensano, Belgium. After obtaining her master degree, she has worked as a scientist in different academic settings; at the university, in academic hospitals and at public health (research) institutes, resulting in a PhD degree in behavioral genetics (2017). In 2018, she started working at Sciensano, the Belgian scientific institute for public health. Since 2020, she aims to leverage her skills and knowledge in Sciensano’s EU health information system Unit, being part of the coordinating team of PHIRI. PHIRI is the European population health information research infrastructure for COVID-19, aiming to build a sustainable pan-European research infrastructure to support population health research and evidence-based policy-making.

Laura Van den Borre
Laura Van den Borre

Laura Van den Borre holds a MSc and PhD degree in Sociology. Her research interests include population health, social inequality and occupational epidemiology. Laura is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Interface Demography (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and Sciensano, and is coordinating the social inequalities aspects of the HELICON project.

Patrick Lusyne
Patrick Lusyne

Patrick Lusyne works at Statistics Belgium for 18 years. With a background in sociology, he started his career in the department of social surveys, but evolved into a driving force behind the production and valorization of much used administrative data such as Demobel (demographic data) and Census. Throughout his career, he has been involved in data collection, management and governance, innovation and dissemination. Recently he was appointed as Statbel's first ever data steward.


HELICON is funded by the Belgian Federal Science Policy (BELSPO) through the BRAIN-be 2.0 (2018-2023) programme.

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Information sheet for participants: EN • NL • FR

Project coordinator

Prof. dr. Brecht Devleesschauwer

Sciensano, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Service Health Information