Frequently Asked Questions

A: The Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA) is CDC’s newest center, established to improve the nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to infectious disease threats using data, modeling, and analytics.

A: Infectious disease outbreaks are an ongoing threat to Americans. Data and analytical capabilities can supercharge response efforts and guide interventions to improve outcomes. CFA works alongside partners across public and private sectors to inform data-driven decisions to protect lives and prevent infections.

A: The work of CFA falls into three main pillars:

  • Predict: Generate forecasts and analyses to support outbreak readiness and response efforts.
  • Inform: Share timely actionable information with the federal government, state, territorial, local and tribal leaders, and the public.
  • Innovate: Advance research and development priorities to improve the performance of outbreak forecasts and analyses.

The following principles are core to all of CFA’s work:

  • Mission impact: CFA focuses on saving lives and protecting people through timely outbreak data, forecasts, and analytics.
  • Innovation: CFA is committed to constantly improving its modeling, analytics, and communications capabilities.
  • Transparency: CFA embraces open communication and will make data, analyses, and scientific methods available to the public in human- and machine-readable formats as much as possible.
  • Collaboration: CFA works with partners across government, the private sector, academia, and civil society to share resources and vital information to improve the nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to public health threats and measure the impact of actions taken.
  • Equity: CFA is working to advance health equity by using data to identify and track health disparities in outbreaks and inform efforts to decrease those disparities.

A: CFA staff are a multidisciplinary team of data scientists, communicators, administrative and managerial public health professionals who work together across public and private sectors to carry out the CFA mission. CFA is hiring talented candidates to join our growing team. CFA shares all open positions on the careers page, and at USAJobs.

A: In 2021, Congress provided $200M in one-time emergency supplemental funding to create a new national resource for epidemic forecasting and outbreak analytics at CDC. Later, in 2022, Congress appropriated $50 million as part of CDC’s regular appropriation to continue the work of building the newly formed Center for Outbreak Analytics, an important step in sustaining this new national security resource. CFA’s optimized initial annual operating budget is $100M.

A: CFA supports decision makers at multiple levels, including

  1. CDC leadership (e.g., director and incident manager)
  2. Other federal agencies (including the White House and Congress)
  3. State, territorial, local, and tribal leaders
  4. Private sector, including academia
  5. Public

A: DMI is focused on improving public health data. CFA is focused on modeling and analytics to support decision-making for outbreak response and public health emergencies. In the life cycle of data, insight, action, DMI is phase one and CFA is phase two, using data to provide insight and analyses that spur more effective action in a public health emergency.

Better Data, Better Analytics, Better Response

  1. DMI is making progress on the Better Data piece by establishing a cloud-enabled public health data infrastructure.
  2. CFA is making headway in data analytics by piloting platforms to enhance real-time disease modeling, funding partners to enhance the science of infectious disease forecasting and working hand in hand with decision makers to understand their analytics needs and tailor analytical tools to meet those needs.
  3. Together, DMI and CFA are working to improve outbreak response today and in the future, saving lives and preventing infections.

A: Yes, there is a long history of modeling at CDC. But we know that modeling and analytics are playing a bigger role in outbreak response than they have in the past. We also know that appetite is only going to grow. We are focused on expanding the current work to support decision making at speed and scale in the federal government and for state, territorial, local, and tribal leaders. CFA will also focus on innovation, developing and funding research to improve how modeling and analytics can support outbreak response.

A: Our state and local leaders are on the front lines of public health, and we want to support them with the best possible analyses. We have several cooperative agreements at both the state and local level, that will build capacity in the interpretation and use of forecasting and outbreak analytics. There are also decisions being made across the federal government, from the State Department to the Department of Education, and we want to inform their work as well.

A: CFA’s vision is innovative. Our operations, products, and engagements will look different from those of other federal public health organizations. To remain on the cutting edge, CFA must work with private industry partners to bring to bear the data and analytical capabilities used in the private sector. We need to learn from them and partner with them. There is not (yet) a robust market for public health data and forecasting tools, but we know there are rich capabilities in the private sector for commercial use. We need to work with the private sector to learn from them and identify opportunities for collaboration so we can figure out how to bend commercial expertise for use in the public health space. CFA is bringing on a chief technology officer to oversee our technology infrastructure, including private sector technologies.

In April 2022, CFA hosted our first Industry Day during which people from several private companies shared their ideas about forecasting and outbreak analytics. CFA is partnering with the Data Modernization Initiative and the CDC Foundation to host a second Industry Day February 27–28, 2023, to continue this critical collaboration.

A:  Although CFA was still in the pre-launch phase of development in winter 2021, the team pivoted quickly to anticipate the timing and impact of the COVID-19 Omicron variant on cases and hospitalizations in the United States. In partnership with Kaiser Permanente Southern California and UC Berkeley, CFA produced the first US estimates of Omicron severity compared to the Delta variant. CFA, in collaboration with teams in academia and experts in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, have also contributed analyses related to school test-to-stay polices, travel policies, and vaccine policy.

Within days of recognizing that the Omicron variant would cause a surge in the United States, the CFA team alerted federal leaders, state, and local public health partners, and the public that an impending increase in cases and hospitalizations would be severe enough to disrupt the functioning of critical infrastructure. This activity gave leaders several weeks’ notice on the timing and magnitude of the surge, allowing planning activities.

Currently, CFA produces weekly ensemble forecasts for national COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

A: We’re currently piloting a virtual analyst platform using high-powered workstations with common modeling and data science software.

This platform takes advantage of CDC’s Data Modernization Initiative advances in cloud-computing so CDC and other modelers can collaborate in real-time, file and codeshare to support decision makers from the earliest indicators of an outbreak. The Virtual Analyst Platform (VAP) allows users to connect live with modelers to work with the data, ask questions, and review code, enabling a real-time information exchange to improve response decisions.

VAP is in a pilot phase, with a goal toward broader application.

A: We expect to grow to around 140 full-time employees across the three functions of Predict, Inform, and Technology & Innovate.  We’re going to create a world-class data science team that will set the standard for outbreak analytics.

A: We will be in the Washington, DC, area while maintaining strong connections to our colleagues in Atlanta. Our staff will be a mix of full-time government employees, contractors, and “rotational” opportunities (public and private sectors).