RSFAS Seminar Series – Professor Geert Molenberghs

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Speaker: Professor Geert Molenberghs

Institution: Universiteit Hasselt and KU Leuven

Date/Time: Thursday, 25 November 2021, from 16:00-17:00

Title: Biostatistics and SARS-CoV-2: research, policymaking, and communication

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic, induced by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is literally a rare event in the course of history. We need to go back to 1918 for an even worse pandemic, the Spanish Flu, or H1N1, although we also had the tuberculosis pandemic in the interbellum; there was the Russian flu in 1890 (maybe also a coronavirus and not influenza), and the plague that literally haunted the world for several centuries. 

When there are no antiviral means to speak of, and in the absence of vaccines, time-honored non-pharmaceutical interventions enter stage. Apart from controlling the epidemic, for better or for worse, they generate side effects, for society, its well-being, and for the economy. Based on data and imperfect evidence, the biostatistician contributes to understanding what has happened and is happening, is able to separate signal from noise in predictions for the short- and mid-term future.

Biostatisticians can, and actually should play a role in the response to the COVID-19 crisis, ranging from mathematical and statistical modeling, over day-to-day monitoring, to scientific and government committee work and policy making. We place the mathematical and statistical work done against the background of its use towards policy making, public communication, and outreach in real time. Attention is given to the post-pandemic era, in terms of pandemic preparedness.

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