Mathematical modelling of infectious diseases has become an important scientific field, yielding insights into how pathogens spread and evolve while also becoming an essential tool for informing public health strategies. There is a need to train researchers in this area, in order to help them understand the strengths and weaknesses of these models, which are used to guide government policy, as well as to expose students to a growing area of research. Modelling has played a key role in the UK in understanding the transmission of measles in humans, foot and mouth disease virus in cattle, and Chalara ash dieback in ash trees. It has also been a key component of the response to a number of major international outbreaks, such as the 2009 influenza pandemic, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and the West African Ebola epidemic.
While there are several textbooks on modelling infectious diseases, there is a dearth of examples in the form of runnable computer code that could be used for modeling and data fitting. A ‘cookbook’ of epidemiological models would represent an important resource in expanding expertise in this area. epirecipes is a ‘hackathon’ in which students and researchers will be invited to collectively implement different models of infectious disease and different approaches to fitting these models to real data.
Many students learn well from examples, yet most teaching textbooks in mathematical modelling of infectious disease provide limited numbers of examples. Simple models are covered in some depth, but more complex models that have age structure, stochastic dynamics, spatial heterogeneity or network components may require programming tricks that are not covered in textbooks, yet are vital in implementing real-world models of disease transmission. Approaches to combining models with data are particularly poorly covered, despite active research in this area. Having a well documented collection of examples, compiled into a volume would help assist researchers who wish to enter the area. In developing such a catalogue, it will also become clear where there are gaps in the current modelling literature. Prior to the workshop, a number of papers will be collated, describing mathematical models of infectious disease to help start the conversation about implementing and replicating published results.
The direct outcome of this event - a cookbook of infectious disease models – is easily measurable and is a noticeable gap in the field at present. A post-meeting survey will also be administered to collect information on indirect outcomes, including new collaborations/studies and acquisition of skill sets. In addition, there are a number of avenues through which diversity and inclusion will be achieved. We will offer travel bursaries, helping to facilitate attendance from junior researchers and those from low to middle income countries and increasing diversity. The ‘core’ hours of the workshop will be 9.30am-4pm to help local participants who may have childcare commitments. The event itself is intended to be very much a team effort, and so inclusion of individuals as both trainers and students will be welcomed. Individual models will be attributed to their respective authors, in addition to an overall list of participants for the package as a whole. Dynamic models of infectious disease – particularly network and spatial models – lend themselves very well to visualisations, which will facilitate the communication of the output of this event to the wider scientific community and the public.