Science, coronavirus, virus

Are you part of the scientific modelling community?

The Royal Society is calling for urgent action for those in the scientific modelling community, and is a scheme to allow those with modelling skills (including data science) to contribute to current UK efforts in modelling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK has a small but highly effective community of academic experts in pandemic modelling. These skilled researchers are currently at full stretch, not only doing their own research on the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, but also providing evidence to inform Government policy, through channels such as SPI-M, the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling Group, which reports to SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

Many in the wider scientific community have valuable skills in computer modelling but no direct expertise in pandemic models. For example, some existing epidemic models, called IBMs (individual based models) are closely related to Agent Based Models used in research fields ranging from urban traffic planning, financial market modelling, dataflow optimization across communications networks, and individualized marketing on social media. In some of these fields there is valuable expertise in developing very large scale models and integrating them with data-science toolsets.

This is a nationwide call for rapid assistance in modelling the pandemic (RAMP), addressed to specialists in any or all of the above areas, and indeed to the scientific modelling community more widely. Possible assistance could include advice on importing modelling elements from other research domains; undertaking the software engineering needed to port vastly enlarged datasets into existing pandemic models; data analytics to create predictive empirical models from real-world data; offering new perspectives on existing modelling strategies; and adding to human and computing resources more generally. Another role could be to review and filter the numerous COVID-relating modelling efforts from scientists in other fields that are already starting to appear online, feeding through to SPI-M and/or other bodies, contributions that might have substantial impact on planning.

This call for assistance is addressed to the wider modelling community (including data analytics) in academia and industry. Our initial focus is on the UK community but this is an international emergency and we welcome contributions from non-UK based scientists, while realizing that they might wish to prioritize any similar initiative in their own countries.

A willingness to work on specified tasks, and to deadlines, is needed. However, no previous experience in epidemic modelling, as such, is required of RAMP participants.

For full details of the scheme and an online form to volunteer on behalf of your research group, click here.

The online survey form should be filled out as soon as practicable and, if at all possible, by 5pm on Thursday 2 April (BST). The survey form will cease to operate completely a day or two after that.