skip to content

 

Background:

From March 2020, The Royal Society used its convening power to support efforts to model the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and help guide the UK’s response. In particular, it set up the Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic (RAMP) initiative and the Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) group. RAMP brought modelling expertise from a diverse range of disciplines to support the pandemic modelling community already working on Coronavirus (COVID-19).

RAMP was designed to provide support from the UK mathematical modelling community for existing research groups; create new models or insights that could be used to inform the work of the Government’s scientific advisors, through data science-based approaches; apply knowledge from related epidemiology domains; and triage incoming literature to ensure effective information flows. The goal of RAMP was to enhance modelling capacity to support rapid assessment of strategies of immediate policy relevance.

Since the formal end of RAMP's volunteer programme in July 2020, many individuals have returned to their pre-RAMP focus.  A number of activities have secured some level of continuation funding and these teams are now operationally independent of RAMP. Information about these other aspects of the continuity activities is available here.

At the same time that the RAMP initiative was developed, two other streams of work were being taken forward by the Mathematical Sciences community. In March 2020, in response to the pandemic, the Virtual Forum for Knowledge Exchange in the Mathematical Sciences (V-KEMS) was established by the Isaac Newton Institute (INI) and its knowledge exchange arm, the Newton Gateway to Mathematics , the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN). V-KEMS has been working closely with representatives from the mathematical sciences community, the main aim of which has been the identification of a range of virtual approaches to help address challenges from business and industry, the third sector, and other groups outside academia. These challenges may have been long-standing or may have arisen directly as a consequence of the present disruption to UK society.

At the start of May 2020, the Infectious Dynamics of Pandemics (IDP) (virtual) Research Programme, began at INI with the support and cooperation of RAMP, and brought together experts from a diverse range of disciplines to address the challenges of using mathematical models to understand the dynamics, control and impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic. With mathematical modelling currently playing a critical role in informing public health policy on controlling the pandemic, infectious disease modelling groups in the UK and globally have necessarily been working in ‘response’ mode. A key goal of this Research Programme was to address the need for longer-term thinking on the challenges of modelling pandemics.

RAMP Continuity Network:

From January 2021, for up to eighteen months, the Newton Gateway will play a key role in the RAMP Continuity Network (a UKRI funded project) and will deliver a series of meetings, workshops and virtual study groups. The aim of this will be to ensure scientific networking to help maintain strong communication links among RAMP-initiated projects, and further develop links between these and the wider modelling community around COVID-19. This will help to create a truly multiscale approach and will ensure engagement with the wider mathematical community as well as with those from industry and the public sector.
 
Links made from the INI IDP Programme will be built upon and expertise and connections gained from the V-KEMS activities will ensure as joined-up an approach as possible. Close links will also be made with the recently formed JUNIPER (Joint UNIversities Pandemic and Epidemiological Research) consortium. This UKRI funded consortium comprises epidemiological modellers and statisticians across seven universities whose work feeds directly into government scientific advice channels such as SPI-M and SAGE.

RAMP Continuity Network Activity:

Two strands of work are planned – one closely aligned with JUNIPER and another that will build upon the work streams that RAMP focused on.

1. The Gateway will develop a number of short meetings that will react to key priority areas in the UK’s response to the current pandemic. These events will be guided by links with groups such as the JUNIPER consortium to ensure their relevance to current UK policy, and will engage with the wider mathematical modelling and epidemiology communities.These events will reflect and share details of the key emerging issues, discussions, and expertise that is being developed, exploiting new data as available. These meetings will set agendas to help provide rapid- response support, engaging with the wider modelling community. 

2.The Gateway will also develop a number of three-day scientific meetings that will further develop those taken forward by different Task Teams as part of the RAMP initiative.

Specific topics will emerge over the period of the project, but the initial activity will discuss:

  • Environmental and aerosol transmission
  • Human dynamics in small spaces
  • Connecting epidemic models to urban analytics

  Events:

  • Understanding the Generation Time for COVID-19,  28th - 30th July 2021

The generation time of COVID-19 is the duration between the moment a person gets infected to the moment they infect another person (i.e. it’s the time between primary and secondary infection). This is very important in the context of new variants which may have different generation times, which in turn would have implications for the estimates of the R number. The generation time is also important for the evolution of new variants.This workshop will focus on understanding the different factors which affect the generation time, as well as the interaction between these, which will be important to be able to better assess what aspects of new variants may be of concern.

The aim of this event will be to hear talks related to each of the factors affecting the generation time, to try to understand current work and thinking in each area and in turn to try to identify how these may be more joined up. A key goal of this event is to build links between epidemic modellers and the wider modelling community with interests in COVID-19, such as within-host modelling teams – including, but not limited to members of RAMP-initiated projects.

  • Virtual Study Group - Covid-19 safety in Large Events 13th - 15th July 2021

Since April 2021, VKEMS (Virtual Forum for Knowledge Exchange in the Mathematical Sciences) has delivered a series of Virtual Study Groups considering minimising risk / impact of COVID-19 in a range of scenarios (including train travel, opening up higher education and the impact on cardiovascular waiting lists).

As part of the RAMP continuity work, V-KEMS will undertake a series of Virtual Study Groups. The first will look at COVID Safety in Large Events. This will be a three day event, starting on Tuesday 13th July and  will be an intensive session bringing mathematical scientists and other disciplines together to solve end user defined challenges. 

  • New Models of Spatial and Social Behaviour in a Pandemic, 26th - 27th May 2021

This two-day science meeting brought together two longer term research activities – urban analytics and human dynamics in small spaces. These RAMP-initiated projects are inter-related and differ mainly in terms of geographical scale. This event therefore helped fulfil a key aim to maintain strong communication links between them, as well as extending to other relevant communities around COVID-19. It will also seek to continue to gain further insights as lockdown restrictions are loosened in the coming months in order to provide supporting evidence and assistance to the scientists advising the government on national and local policy responses using urban analytics and spatial modelling. There are important implications for extending these models to embrace key social and economic issues that result from the pandemic and will be explored through future workshops.

The event included the following sessions:

•    Micro modelling and simulation
•    Spatial epidemic modelling
•    Stakeholders perspectives.

  • Environmental and Aerosol Transmission of COVID-19, 26th - 28th April 2021

Better understanding of the transmission of COVID-19 is a key factor in managing risk and designing practical interventions. With the reduction of lockdown restrictions over the next few months, insights into areas such as the role of ventilation and the impact of people moving around within buildings are particularly timely.

Building on the work begun by RAMP, this three-day science meeting reviewed existing work and identify where further research is most urgently needed. The meeting included a standalone public-facing component providing an accessible overview of the latest science, alongside scientific talks and discussion sessions targeting active researchers.
The aims of the meeting were to bring together a wide range of participants to maximise the engagement from different communities, better inform the public on the science underlying viral transmission & progress the most promising areas of research, and reach consensus on future research directions and research activity.

  • Evolutionary Implications of the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, 19th & 20th April 2021

The COVID-19 vaccine is currently being rolled out in the UK and globally, but there is a limited supply available. Therefore, countries are having to prioritise which subgroups of the population will receive the vaccine first. For example, in the UK vaccination has been targeted at the older age groups, health-care workers and those that are at greater risk of needing hospitalisation as a result of contracting COVID-19. Such a strategy is focused on reducing disease rather than transmission, since currently the impacts of the vaccine on blocking transmission are still uncertain.

This workshop focused on the use of quantitative modelling approaches to understand the evolutionary implications of vaccination programmes. Such approaches are key to developing optimal vaccination strategies and understanding which subgroups in society should be prioritised for vaccination against COVD-19. A key goal of this event was to build links between epidemic modellers and the wider modelling community with interests in COVID-19, such as within-host modelling teams – including, but not limited to members of RAMP-initiated projects.​