Responsible SciComm

One of the things I’ve written about on this blog quite frequently is how important the treatment of uncertainty is in science, both in the application of the scientific method itself and in the communication of results to a wider audience. This blog post makes a similar point about the presentation of results from modelling the spread of Covid-19.

...and Then There's Physics

Yesterday, a group in Oxford released a paper that implied that a signifcant fraction of those in the UK may already have been infected. This was quickly picked up by numerous media outlets who highlighted that coronavirus could already have infected half the British population. James Annan has already discussed it in a couple of post, but I thought I would comment briefly myself.

To be clear, I certainly have no expertise in epidemiology, but I do have expertise in computational modelling. So, I coded up their model, which is described in Equations 1-4 in their paper. They were also doing a parameter estimation, while I’m simply going to run the model with their parameters.

The key parameter is $latex rho$, which is the proportion of the population that is at risk of severe disease, a fraction of whom will die (14%). They explicitly assume that only…

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6 Responses to “Responsible SciComm”

  1. In a similar vein, I don’t quite understand the comment “The key parameter is \rho, which is the proportion of the population that is at risk of severe disease, a fraction of whom will die (14%).” How certain is that last figure? What is the uncertainty in a given region? As I understand it, the fraction of infected people who die from the virus varies quite a bit from region to region and from country to country

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      I increasingly believe that that is due to differences in philosophy over cause of death. Many people die of opportunistic bacterial infection in the lungs, which attacks while one’s immune system is still recovering from battling this coronavirus.

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    In Sweden, meanwhile, free association goes on (or nearly so). The exponentiating death rate will fall off very rapidly as soon as almost the entire population has had it, and Sweden is gambling that the proportion of very mild cases that never bother to see a doctor, plus totally asymptomatic cases, is very high; in that case the exponential will strangle itself down to zero without ever getting much worse than elsewhere. Quite a punt…

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Good grief, what a bastard Macklean was. I’ve just looked him up and his reforms. Reminds me of Ceausescu’s levelling of large numbers of traditional European villages. Thank you for mentioning this.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Such as? The land reforms he put in place have been done elsewhere without the vandalistic levelling of half a nation’s vernacular architectural history.

    • telescoper Says:

      The current Covid-19 related death rate in Sweden is way higher than its Scandinavian neighbours.

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