Science, Policy and Pandemics: Epidemiological Modelling and Covid-19

8 April 2020


Reported by Kate McNeil, CSaP Communications Coordinator

In late March, CSaP recorded the first episode of a special podcast series on Science, Policy and Pandemics in front of a virtual audience of CSaP Policy Fellows, who helped to shape discussion through their questions.

Listen to the disucssion here:

This podcast series, produced in partnership with Cambridge Infectious Diseases and the Cambridge Immunology Network, aims to answer questions about our understanding of the current pandemic, including the epidemiology, on what basis governments are making current decisions, how much confidence we can have in the knowledge models are producing, and how to manage the uncertainties involved in the present crisis.

In our first episode, Dr Rob Doubleday spoke to infectious disease epidemiologist Professor James Wood and mathematician Professor Julia Gog for an overview of infectious disease modelling.

Throughout the discussion, Julia Gog, a professor of mathematical biology at the University of Cambridge and a member of SPI-M, explained that there were multiple models being developed and used as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This included models to make sense of short-term predictions and understand longer-term dynamics, as well as models which seek to understand the possible consequences of behavioural changes on transmission rates.

Here she emphasised that what we know changes every day, and that there are various sources of uncertainty which impact our understanding – including that, without widespread testing, the best way to understand transmission was through deaths and critical care statistics, which reflect transmission rates from weeks prior. She also explored what we know about other coronaviruses, and how that might help inform models concerning factors such as population immunity.

Professor James Wood explored what we know and don’t know about the transmission rate, what serology testing might be able to contribute to our understanding of the extent of infection in the broader population, and why the infection rate is probably not uniform throughout the UK.

Professor Wood, a veterinary epidemiologist who specialises in emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases, is Head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge. An expert on bat viruses, he further elaborated upon the risks of diseases coming from wildlife, and why we need a coordinated international effort, including surveillance programmes and changes to food systems, to respond to the risks posed by zoonotic diseases.

CSaP's Science and Policy Podcast's special series on Science, Policy and Pandemics is available across all major podcasting platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Google Play, RadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Podbean, ListenNotes, Acast, Player.FM, Podcast Addict, and Castbox.


Cover Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash