Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2408560
 


 



Google Flu Trends Still Appears Sick: An Evaluation of the 2013-2014 Flu Season


David Lazer


Northeastern University - Department of Political Science; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Ryan Kennedy


University of Houston - Department of Political Science

Gary King


Harvard University

Alessandro Vespignani


Northeastern University

March 13, 2014


Abstract:     
In response to its poor performance during the 2012-2013 flu season, Google Flu Trends (GFT) engineers announced a redesign of the GFT algorithm. Two changes were made: (1) dampening anomalous media spikes and (2) using ElasticNet, rather than regression, for estimation. This paper identifies several problems that persist in the new algorithm. First, the transparency problems identified in our earlier Science paper appear to have, if anything, become worse. Second, there are reasons to doubt whether a spike in media attention was the only, or primary, cause of GFT's errors. Finally, there is strong evidence that GFT is still not using all the information at its disposal to make accurate measurements of flu prevalence. While it is too early to give a complete evaluation of the new algorithm, these results are discouraging.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 11

Keywords: Google Flu Trends, big data, transparency, replication, time series

JEL Classification: C22, I1, I18

working papers series


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Date posted: March 14, 2014  

Suggested Citation

Lazer, David and Kennedy, Ryan and King, Gary and Vespignani, Alessandro, Google Flu Trends Still Appears Sick: An Evaluation of the 2013-2014 Flu Season (March 13, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2408560 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2408560

Contact Information

David Lazer
Northeastern University - Department of Political Science ( email )
Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-373-2796 (Phone)
617-373-5311 (Fax)
Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Taubman Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-0102 (Phone)
617-496-1722 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.davidlazer.com
Ryan Kennedy (Contact Author)
University of Houston - Department of Political Science ( email )
TX 77204-3011
United States
713-743-1663 (Phone)
713-743-3890 (Fax)
Gary King
Harvard University ( email )
1737 Cambridge St.
Institute for Quantitative Social Science
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-500-7570 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://gking.harvard.edu
Alessandro Vespignani
Northeastern University ( email )
Boston, MA 02115
United States
Feedback to SSRN


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