Governments have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by adopting a wide range of policy measures with different effects on infection rates and deaths, but also varying socio-economic consequences. The Oxford Supertracker at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention (DSPI) aims to provide a global online directory of relevant policy trackers that have been developed to monitor policies and individual preferences in respect to Covid-19 across countries.
Trackers vary widely in terms of policy fields, country coverage, types of authors and users. The Supertracker provides an online directory that brings together data sources on (1) deaths and cases of Covid-19, (2) policies to prevent the spread of Covid-19, (3) preferences and behavioural responses of individuals, and (4) policies seeking to mitigate or compensate for the consequences of Covid-19.
The Supertracker enhances research and knowledge opportunities in several ways. First, it facilitates triangulation of information from different sources and fosters multi-dimensional analyses of policy responses. Second, it provides information about the time structure of available policy and evidence, which in turn makes it possible to adopt quasi-experimental research designs studying pre/post treatment effects, for example. Third, the diversity of trackers generates potential complementarities between them, which could be leveraged in different ways, for instance to reduce duplication, increase coordination between authors of trackers thereby creating a momentum and resources for data standardization and analysis.
Combining different databases with each other and using their temporal dimension may also generate some challenges. First, there are comparability and combinatorial issues since the trackers typically differ in their conceptualization of key policies as well as their data structures, country and time coverage. Second, there are coverage and validity issues since academic institutions, NGOs and think tanks tend to produce trackers according to their own particular designs, perceived need and available resources. Individual trackers are often less global in coverage, less comprehensive, and up-to-date in data gathering. Third, there are challenges in terms of policy impact evaluation because there is a lack of up-to-date individual or household panel surveys that could help measure various outcome of the pandemic – and policy responses – on particular social risk groups. Datasets created to monitor policy responses to Covid-19 are difficult to leverage in research designs that require before-after comparisons since they do not build on established classifications.
Reflecting on the situation we make the following recommendations for possible further action by policy tracker producers, the research community at large and the Supertracker team. First, information resources need to be categorized more precisely and rigorously so as to identify overlaps and gaps. Second, we recommend addressing information gaps (e.g. in terms of uneven country coverage) and using synergies, for instance through the creation of a Supertracker forum. This would be led by an informal working group and host webinars and undertake joint project initiatives. Third, the Supertracker should aim to become a fully-fledged data interface/repository providing direct access to the content of any dataset listed in the directory.