NFDI4Health - Task Force COVID-19: Better understanding the COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences through integrated and harmonised research efforts


COVID-19 poses a major challenge to individuals and societies around the world. Lockdown efforts dramatically change social lives, economic prospects and health services. This creates a huge demand for scientific data to understand the virus’ spread, therapeutic options and consequences of the pandemic mitigation measures. Within the medical, epidemiological and public health sciences a growing number of studies are launched which lack coordination to secure common standards and comparable results. Record linkage of individual data across various data sources is insufficiently implemented. Imaging as a diagnostic tool needs more attention. The current focus is on COVID-19 inpatients while less attention is paid to outpatients and the public health effects of mitigation measures. These shortcomings impair the usability of research results for future medical, societal and public health decisions.

Against this background NFDI4Health with ist strong public health community provides the necessary structures to address these shortcomings. NFDI4Health integrates major German institutions experienced as methodology developers, data holders and analysts.

We extended our working programme to a further use case by setting up a nationwide COVID-19 research information and guidance infrastructure. Our overarching goal was to strengthen harmonised medical, epidemiological and public health related research and to improve prospects for informing stakeholders on research results. Contrary to other initiatives in the medical sciences we focused on public health consequences of the pandemic outbreak such as morbidity, mortality, health care utilisation, and effects of social isolation:

(1) We created a comprehensive inventory of German COVID-19 studies covering structured health data from administrative databases, clinical trials incl. vaccination studies, primary care, epidemiological studies, and public health surveillance. This comprised findability of and access to these resources along measures for improved data sharing, harmonised quality assessments, high interoperability, and record linkage. Foundations were laid for a centralised data catalogue with elaborate search functionalities and data access management. (2) To secure comparable outcome measures in new studies we developed tools and standards, e.g. for data management and survey instruments, and made them available through centralised repositories and via This was complemented by analysis routines and interactive web-based data exploration tools to allow for timely availability of harmonised COVID-19 research results. (3) We provided a concept to link different data sources like hospital, medication, sequencing, imaging and psychosocial data.

To reach our goals, we collaborated with other (inter)national initiatives. Sustainability of our results is ensured by the measures foreseen by the NFDI4Health consortium.

Funding period

Begin:   July 2020
End:   September 2023


  • German Research Foundation


Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Iris Pigeot