Today, we began our quest for questions.
Report on the SIAM News articles
Since few of the participants in the Summer School are familiar with the dynamics of infectious diseases and pandemics like COVID-19, it made sense to start our quest with a report on yesterday’s homework assignment: to read one of the 12 articles from SIAM News and present the highlights at an all-hands meeting. This collection of articles illustrates the broad spectrum of scientific issues associated with COVID-19 and the variety of mathematical, statistical, and computational techniques that can be and are being brought to bear on them.
We then all watched a video presentation of an introductory talk on SIR models by Nina Fefferman (Princeton), recorded at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS).
Communicating with Decision Makers
The afternoon was devoted to the type of questions that arise on the part of decision makers. This was done through roleplaying. The participants met in groups of four in a member’s office, two members played the role of policy makers, the other two the role of scientists. In the second part of the session, the roles were reversed. Each group chose a particular setting (level of decision making, scale of the issue to be discussed, type of authority, etc.), type of expertise of the scientists (modeler, statistician, virologist, etc.), and a theme (reopening schools, testing procedures, public health campaign, etc.), The goal of the exercise was to experience the interaction between the two sides working towards a common goal, the conflicting demands on both sides, and how to prevent a breakdown of the discussion. The groups reported anecdotes from their session in an all-hands meeting. Between the two halves of the session, we had an opportunity to relax in a short Tai-Chi session.
As tonight’s homework assignment, every participant is expected to read the report “Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand” by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, March 16, 2020.