22 April 2020
(University of Edinburgh)
Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic (RAMP) is an initiative convened by the Royal Society in the UK to enhance already running COVID-19 initiatives. The motivation was to enhance the modelling teams who 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.
In order to put together a base of volunteers to help with this modelling, we set up a survey between Saturday 28 March and Thursday 02 April and received approximately 1,800 responses, 50% of whom by groups; the number of people volunteering their time and skills is quite large. We pretty quickly made available to SPI-M 70 volunteers across 24 groups and we are aware already of at least one pre-print output by one of our volunteers for SPI-M.
Given the encouragement by the large-scale response, we have broadened the scope: we have identified and contacted a small number of pre-existing collaborations to independently create first-principles human epidemic models. We identified key teams in the area of urban analytics or social modelling to put social interactions and human behaviour at the forefront of new models. And we have started putting together leadership, processes and infrastructure to organise crowd-sourced rapid-response peer-reviews of SPI-M outputs, SPI-M-highlighted outputs, as well as other outputs, generated in the RAMP context or put forward by our volunteers.
Also in the pipeline is fostering and supporting a number of new activities. One is aerosol research to investigate viral flows in confined spaces. Another is looking at dynamics of COVID-19 on infected individuals to quantify the variance of effect over time and understand why some people are more affected than others and how some may be more infectious than others. We are taking advice from SPI-M and SAGE to guide RAMP-fostered research along the paths that will influence (UK) policy. We are putting together a programme for targeted discussion and webinars, with the aim to raise the level of our contributions and also to educate people. We are also working with other modelling activities in the UK to cross-pollinate and co-ordinate relevant initiatives.