Considering our epidemic problems with the opinions of engineers


The last 20 months turned every dog ​​into a popular breeder and reader. Meanwhile, a team of infectious disease specialists and archaeologists have come to believe that natural disasters can be successfully solved by the minds of engineers: that is, by focusing on problem solving in a repetitive, adaptive way.

In a recent article, “Counting uncertainty in the event of an epidemic, ”The researchers are thinking about their role in the event of a public health crisis and how they can be prepared to deal with the next issue. The answer, he writes, could be to think about infectious diseases by using technology and having “white science”.

Epidemiological research informs public health and its role in prevention and prevention. But a careful comparison between the white results and the pragmatic responses showed that it was difficult during the epidemic.

We have to make real decisions, and how important is uncertainty?

Seth Guikema

“I always think that in the event of a disaster, epidemics can be very helpful,” says Jon Zelner, co-author of the article. “But our work has been more complex and easier to explain than I initially thought of the epidemic.” Zelner, a director of infectious diseases and diseases at the University of Michigan, observed a “crazy increase” in research papers, “many do not really think about what it means to have positive results.”

“There were a number of opportunities that were missing,” says Zelner — due to the lack of connection between the ideas and tools that clinical researchers hope for and the world they are supposed to help.

Commitment to commitment

Author Andrew Gelman, a mathematician and political scientist at Columbia University, described the “big picture” in the first article. He likened the spread of the epidemic to disease and how war makes every citizen a master and an expert: “Instead of maps with black pins, we have visual cues and mortality; people on the street are arguing over the number of deaths and illnesses. and the protection of livestock, as they have been known in times of war and in solidarity. ”

And with all the information and public information – Are masks still relevant? How long does the vaccine take?

In an attempt to understand what had happened and what had gone wrong, the researchers (who also included Ruth Etzioni at the University of Washington and Julien Riou at Bern University) did something similar. He analyzed the tools used to deal with problems such as comparing the prevalence of human-to-human transmission and the number of crimes circulating among the population at any given time. He measured everything from data collection (the amount of data and its interpretation is therefore a major complication of the epidemic) based on statistical analysis, as well as communication, decision-making, and reliability. “Uncertainty happens in any way,” he wrote.

However, Gelman says, this review “does not accurately describe the trauma I experienced in those early months.”

One way to deal with this uncertainty is statistics. Gelman thinks of mathematics as a “mathematical skill” – methods and tools that are similar to measurement as invention. Mathematical scientists try to illuminate what is going on in the world, and focus on change and uncertainty. When new evidence arrives, it should produce a repetitive process that gradually supports the previous information and confirms it.

Good science is humble and can purify itself in the face of uncertainty.

Marc Lipsitch

Susan Holmes, a Stanford-based researcher who did not participate in the study, also notes similarities with the technical views. “Engineers are constantly changing their image,” he says, “reviewing where new materials and tools are available.” To solve the problem, the engineer provides a blurry, then a second count (more precise), and more.

Gelman, however, has said has already been warned that census science can be used as a machine for “false uncertainty” – intentionally or not, complaints (uncertainties) are combined to create a satisfactory (true) appearance. Statistics that have been proven against uncertainty “are often marketed as a kind of alchemy that can turn this doubt into reality.”

We saw this during the plague. Faced with chaos and anonymity, pathologists and accountants, amateurs and professionals – he realized something strong enough to keep them away. But as Gelman points out, seeking reassurance during a plague is unrealistic and impossible. “Early adoption has been part of the complexity of the epidemic’s decision-making process,” he says. “This jump between uncertainty and uncertainty has led to many problems.”

Letting go of resentment can set you free, he says. And, in a way, that’s where the technical ideas come in.

Wise ideas

For Seth Guikema, director-general of the Center for Risk Analysis and Informed Decision Engineering at the University of Michigan (as well as Zelner’s assistant in other areas), making important decisions, and how important are uncertainties? ” Because if there is a lot of uncertainty — and if uncertainty changes what the right choices, or good choices — then it is important to know, says Guikema. “But if it doesn’t affect my good choices, then it doesn’t diminish.”

For example, increasing the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine among humans is one factor, although it is uncertain how many times the human vaccine can protect, because it is possible to reduce both, few effects.

Engineers are constantly changing their image.

Susan Holmes

Experts, Holmes also say, are also instrumental in solving problems in complex pieces, using carefully selected tools, and developing problem-solving solutions. With a team of engineers building a bridge, there is a cement and steel engineer, windmaker and architect. “Different specialties work together,” he says.

For Zelner, the concept of infectious disease as a technical skill is something he inherited from his father, a mechanical engineer who started his own company to create a health facility. Using a childhood full of design and maintenance, his technical skills include grounding, for example, repairing a car type, in response to a moving object.

“Often these problems require repetitive responses, as you change according to what doesn’t work or don’t work,” he says. “You continue to change what you are doing as more is coming and you see the success and failure of your approach. For me, it’s very different – and it’s relevant to the complex, immovable problems that define human health – than the one type of imagery most people have of academic science, where you have a great idea, try it, and your results are kept in amber all the time. ”



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