Convening the BC COVID-19 Modelling Group

An email message sent by Dan Coombs on 2020-03-23 convened this Group.

Dear Colleagues,

This message is going to a group of people, mostly at UBC and SFU, who have expressed an interest (either to me or to Caroline) about working on modelling the current pandemic. Please read carefully and respond (if you have time) when you get to the end.

A small group of us have been working with Michael and Naveed at BCCDC to attempt to provide some useful modelling support to their group in response to urgent requests for modelling. Adding large numbers of volunteers to that group is likely to be counterproductive and will not make sense. Therefore, Caroline and I talked about how to try to organize this quite big (and growing) list of people so that we can optimally harvest your skills and enthusiasm. This is what we came up with (except point 9, that’s from me alone).

(1) There will be a UBC/SFU Covid-19 Modelling Group

(2) There will be a twice-a-week online get-together. At least at first, this will be structured as follows:

(a) 30 mins of virtual “journal club” (probably, “preprint club”) where people will present a short version of a current paper, code, data set, etc.
(b) 30 mins of structured general discussion on specific modelling topics

(2) There will be a Slack channel(s) where we can work in groups and have online discussions without clogging email.

(3) Specific goals for this group:

(a) plurality of thinking and parallel processing on what needs to be done and how it should be done
(b) gaining additional capacity to try out new things and ideas from other groups
(c ) taking on modelling tasks that may be more speculative or models that are foreseen to be of interest in a few weeks or months
(d) supporting publication and publicizing of work, including general public as well as scientific
(e) providing camaraderie and broader support on projects, as well as a stimulating intellectual atmosphere!

(4) Caroline and I will act as informal conduits between the smaller BCCDC group and the larger group. This could include relaying ideas / new models, requests for data to support modelling, requests for modelling or technical help, etc.

(5) There is no minimum time commitment and all activities are optional. You are welcome to join the online get-togethers, or not. You are welcome to join the slack channel, or not.

(6) The first meeting will be on WEDNESDAY MARCH 25th at 11.30am. The zoom link is as follows: NB to first time zoom users, it involves getting a download and installing, so it may take 5mins to get set up. Not difficult. Agenda:

(1) introductory remarks / roll call
(2) journal club presentation and discussion
(3) current projects and open problems discussion
(4) organizational discussion
The first “journal club” will be by me. I will talk about these two “papers” related to inference on undetected cases:

(7) RESPONSE REQUESTED: If you DO NOT want to be involved please reply (and I will take you off the list). If you DEFINITELY WANT TO JOIN, please reply and include any other details that you would like to share (e.g. that you are already working on X, or you know a lot about Y, or you would like to present Z in a future meeting, or whatever). If you DO NOT HAVE TIME TO REPLY or CANNOT JOIN ON WEDNESDAY that is fine, you will stay on the list in the short term and can participate later; let me know details if you want.

(8) If you wish to invite others (eg students or postdocs) from the Vancouver modelling community, that is great. However, we would like to keep this group to a size that people feel comfortable sharing ideas, and where we have a reasonable idea of who we are talking to. Therefore, please TELL ME about anyone that you invite, e.g “X is my student and their email address is Y”, or “my colleague W is really keen to contribute and their email is V”.

(9) Important: The terms “SFU/UBC” and “UBC/SFU” will be used interchangeably and in equal proportion by all.

best wishes and look forward to seeing people on Weds!


Dan Coombs
Dan Coombs
Professor, UBC