Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic (RAMP) initiative

Author: Kostas Kavoussanakis
Posted: 1 May 2020 | 10:37

I am the Project Manager of the Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic (RAMP) initiative, supporting Prof. Mike Cates and the RAMP Steering Committee. RAMP was convened by the Royal Society in the UK to enhance existing COVID-19 initiatives. The motivation was to enhance the modelling teams who inform Government policy through channels such as SPI-M (Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling Group), which reports to SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).

In order to put together a base of volunteers to help with this modelling, we undertook a survey from 28 March–2 April and received approximately 1,800 responses, 50% of which were from groups; the number of people volunteering their time and skills is quite large. We pretty quickly made 70 volunteers across 24 groups available to SPI-M, and we are already aware of at least one pre-print output by one of our volunteers for SPI-M.

Encouraged by the large-scale response, we have broadened the scope: we have now 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, and SPI-M-highlighted outputs, as well as other outputs, generated in the RAMP context or put forward by our volunteers.

Also in the pipeline are fostering and supporting a number of new activities. One is aerosol research to investigate viral flows in confined spaces. Another is looking at the dynamics of COVID-19 in 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.

More broadly, we are putting together a programme for targeted discussion and webinars, with the aim of raising the level of our contributions and also to educate people. We are working with other modelling activities in the UK to cross-pollinate and co-ordinate relevant initiatives. We are also in the process of setting up a forums infrastructure to be used to crowd-source the review of interesting publications, software and datasets.

Further information

Author

Kostas Kavoussanakis, EPCC