UCalgary Biostatistics Seminar: Rob Deardon

  • Date: 10/13/2023
  • Time: 12:00
Rob Deardon, University of Calgary

University of Calgary


Feedback mechanisms in epidemic models: Is your population alarmed?


The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated both the utility and limitation of using epidemic models for understanding and forecasting disease spread. One of the many difficulties in modelling epidemic spread is that caused by behavioural change in the underlying population. This can be a major issue in public health since, as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, behaviour in the population can change drastically as infection levels vary, both due to government mandates and personal decisions. Such changes in the underlying population result in major changes in transmission dynamics of the disease, making the modelling challenges. However, these issues arise in agriculture and public health, as changes in farming practice are also often observed as disease prevalence changes. We propose a model formulation where time-varying transmission is captured by the level of alarm in the population and specified as a function of the past epidemic trajectory. The model is set in a data- augmented Bayesian framework as epidemic data are often only partially observed, and we can utilize prior information to help with parameter identifiability. We investigate the estimability of the population alarm across a wide range of scenarios, using both parametric functions and non-parametric Gaussian process and splines. The benefit and utility of the proposed approach is illustrated through an application to COVID-19 data from New York City.


Speaker biography: Dr. Deardon is a Professor of Biostatistics with a joint position in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Mathematics & Statistics at the University of Calgary. He works predominantly in in the area of infectious disease modelling and surveillance, but is also interested in Bayesian & computational statistics, experimental design, spatial models and statistical learning. He currently has a research group consisting of 15 trainees, and has published 75+ papers in peer-reviewed journals. He has served as associate editor of a number of journals including the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Series C) and the Canadian Journal of Statistics. He recently served a 2-year term as the Chair of the Statistics Section of the NSERC Discovery Grant Mathematics & Statistics Evaluation Group.

Other Information: 

Time: 12pm Pacific

Location: MS 427