SocioEconomic Mathematical Epidemiology: Developing Mathematical Modelling Theory (24w5286)


(University of British Columbia Okanagan)

Bert Baumgaertner (University of Idaho)

Jane Heffernan (York University)

Bouchra Nasri (ESPUM)


The Banff International Research Station will host the “SocioEconomic Mathematical Epidemiology: Developing Mathematical Modelling Theory” workshop in Banff from September 15 - 20, 2024.

The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that human behaviour makes a big difference to the way an epidemic progresses in a population. If people are willing and able to adopt behaviours that are protective to themselves and society, such as getting vaccinated or physically distancing themselves, then disease spread slows down and fewer people get sick. As soon as people relax these behaviours, the epidemic can take off again. We also saw that behaviours can change over time, with or without government-imposed regulations. For example, the first pandemic restrictions in Canada were widely accepted, but as the pandemic wore on people got tired of "putting life on hold."

Throughout the pandemic, mathematicians were working hard to predict how the epidemic would evolve given the best information available about the transmissibility of the virus, and the extent to which people would willingly adopt protective behaviours. While mathematicians have an excellent understanding of disease spread when behaviours are static, our understanding of opinion dynamics is much more elementary. Researchers in the social sciences, however, have been working hard to try and understand the way opinions and behaviours evolve in a human population, and so the time is ripe to bring mathematicians and social scientists together. The social scientists have theories that help explain human behaviour in qualitative ways, while mathematical models are powerful tools for developing predictions that can be tested in experiments or used to guide policy. At this workshop, mathematicians will learn from social scientists how emotions and internal biases drive the way human opinions change over time, and then will be equipped to figure out how to translate this knowledge into mathematical equations. Ultimately, the participants will create a new set of fundamental, realistic, disease-and-opinion-dynamics models that can form the basis of future epidemic modelling.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada’s Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta’s Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico’s Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT).