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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 taking place – one closely aligned with JUNIPER and another is building upon the workstreams that RAMP focused on.

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

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

Specific topics continue to emerge over the period of the project, but the initial activity has  discussed:

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

A number of Virtual Study Groups are also taking place - these are being developed and delivered in partnership with V-KEMS.

Events:

Information about the RAMP events can be seen here.

  • Recovery from the Pandemic: Public Perception of Science – Virtual Study Group, 18th - 20th May 2022
  • Controlling COVID-19 in Schools: Lessons Learned and Open Questions, 27th April 2022
  • Socio-Economic Determinants of Coronavirus in the UK​, 5th April 2022
  • Recovery from the Pandemic: Transport Logistics – Virtual Study Group, 29th - 31st March 2022
  • Epidemic Models: Insights from the RAMP Project, 23rd & 24th March 2022
  • Genomic, Evolutionary and Epidemiological Approaches for Pandemics, 15th March 2022
  • Virtual Study Group hosted by ICMS - Communities for an Ageing Society, 9th - 11th March 2022
  • Behaviour and Policy During Pandemics: Models and Methods, 22nd February 2022
  • The Role of Uncertainty in Mathematical Modelling of Pandemics, 8th - 10th February 2022
  • Virtual Study Group: Post Covid-19 Recovery - Communities of the Future, 12th - 14th January 2022
  • Optimal Vaccination Strategies, 14th December 2021
  • Modelling Behaviour to Inform Policy for Pandemics, 2nd, 4th & 5th November 2021
  • Recovery from the Pandemic: Hospitality & Leisure, 12th - 14th October 2021
  • Understanding the Generation Time for COVID-19,  28th - 30th July 2021​
  • Virtual Study Group - Covid-19 Safety in Large Events 13th - 15th July 2021
  • New Models of Spatial and Social Behaviour in a Pandemic, 26th - 27th May 2021
  • Environmental and Aerosol Transmission of COVID-19, 26th - 28th April 202
  • Evolutionary Implications of the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, 19th & 20th April 2021 

Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic – Outreach Innovation Awards

As part of the RAMP activity, awards of up to £5,000 have been made available for Early Career Researchers based in the UK in the field of infectious disease modelling to undertake projects with a significant outreach component. The projects had to include communication of infectious disease modelling concepts to the general public and/or the wider scientific community. Applicants were invited to be creative and all applications involving any type of outreach activity were considered. More information on the successful projects can be seen here.