A call for assistance, addressed to the scientific modelling community

Coordinated by the Royal Society

Update December

This is a brief update to supplement the one written in August, which remains available on our "Previous updates" page.

1. Since the formal end of RAMP's volunteer programme in July, many individuals seconded to SPI-M teams have returned to their pre-RAMP activities. Most of these teams have long prioritized their Government advice work over journal publication, so we expect a backlog of RAMP-assisted SPI-M publications to enter the public domain over the coming months. Volunteers who have participated in this way, and/or their team leaders, are encouraged to upload such papers to the 'RAMP Outputs' section of the Research Outputs Repository. This Repository is part of the Forums which those with continuing interest in all areas of COVID-19 are warmly invited to join (see item 5 below).

2. Some of the bespoke research teams assembled by RAMP are similarly in 'wind down and write up' mode, and their members are likewise encouraged to upload outputs to the Repository as soon as these are in the public domain.

3. Other RAMP research teams have already secured, or still hope to secure, some level of continuation funding (from UKRI or other sources) to continue their work. These teams are now operationally independent of RAMP, although the Steering Committee will continue to invite them to report progress periodically, and offer whatever assistance we can.

4. This facilitating role will be built around a set of RAMP core activities for which UKRI funding has now been secured:

  1. A series of meetings, workshops and virtual study groups extending across the next 18 months, coordinated and hosted by the Newton Gateway team at the Isaac Newton Institute. These will build on the successful Infectious Dynamics of Pandemics (IDP) programme which was initiated by RAMP in May and runs through to 18th December. This will help maintain strong communication links among RAMP-initiated projects, and between these and the wider modelling community around COVID-19. Recall that RAMP-initiated projects have included New Epidemic Models; Urban Analytics Approaches; Human Dynamics in Small Spaces; Within-Host Modelling; Comorbidities; Environmental and Aerosol Transmission; and Structured Expert Judgement.
  2. RAMP's Rapid Review Group (RRG), which provides accelerated review of research outputs (from any source) that could have significant implications for UK policy. Outputs can be nominated for review by those working within Government advice channels (including but not limited to SPI-M/SAGE), Government itself, RAMP Task Team leaders, and via the Forums. This quality control mechanism has proved its worth over the past 8 months, helping to allow policy to be based on high quality science and reducing the burden on SPI-M/SAGE members who would otherwise have to make quality judgements unassisted. From January 2021, RRG will be co-led by Prof Alain Goriely and Dr Robin Thompson of the University of Oxford.
  3. A 'Policy Landing' activity, conducted by the Royal Society with oversight from RAMP's Steering Committee. The staff of the Royal Society include a team of policy experts, with wide experience in making connections between emerging science and the most relevant branches of Government. This activity will ensure that scientific outcomes from COVID-related research are fed through in a timely fashion to those who can benefit most. This activity will become ever more valuable as COVID research spreads beyond traditional modelling to embrace aspects of economics, city planning and other domains that are not the direct realm of SPI-M or SAGE modellers.
  4. The RAMP Forums are funded to remain operational through to the end of 2021. These will continue as now, with one important change as detailed in the next item.

5. The RAMP Forums are now entering a second phase with a broader remit, thanks to a partnership run by senior members of the Dutch academic community who are building a new website.

A number of new members have joined the Forums from that community, who will contribute on an equal basis to discussions, albeit with a slightly different purpose than that of RAMP. Specifically, their aim is to identify for their website policy-relevant papers across all areas of COVID-19 research.

Up to now the Forums have mainly focussed directly on epidemic models, but thanks in part to RAMP itself, the science domains capable of informing UK policy are now much broader. The broadening of the forums' activities created by sharing discussions with the Pandemic Science volunteers should add significant value to the information RAMP can feed into UK Government advice channels via the 'Policy Landing' work detailed in 4c above.

With the broadened remit in mind, all interested scientists are warmly invited to join the Forums now. (There may be a short wait while a moderator approves your sign-up.) By joining, you can stay connected with COVID-19 research, and contribute to the continuing RAMP effort by helping to sift the ever-growing literature for work worthy of policy-makers' attention. Those who joined previously, and found the forums somewhat narrow in scope, are urged to help us broaden them in Phase 2 by proactively posting items for discussion from their own field of research. There is no minimum time commitment: anyone who reads COVID-19-related papers, even occasionally, can help greatly by sharing their opinions of such papers with others. This is done either by starting a new thread on a paper of likely interest (in the section Research Outputs: Community Review) or by adding comments to another such thread. It is also possible to nucleate broader discussions via a post in the 'Questions to/from the community' section.

6. Many of the RAMP research outputs mentioned in the August update are now in the Forums Repository, while others are yet to enter the public domain. Broadly speaking, the scientific progress and agenda reported in August remains current. On the other hand, the diversity of outputs now emerging from RAMP's varied continuation projects makes a centralized reporting system for scientific outcomes increasingly inappropriate. For this reason, the RAMP Outputs section of the Repository, rather than this website, shall serve from now on as the main documentary record of RAMP's research contributions.

7. We once again thank all RAMP volunteers for their support, including those whose offers of assistance were not ultimately called upon by RAMP. RAMP has decided to introduce an award to recognize early career researchers who have made exceptional contributions towards its activities. This is called the RAMP Early Career Investigator Award (RECIA). It has no cash value but is a formal recognition suitable for inclusion on a recipient's CV. The number of these awards is not fixed but we anticipate a total of between 10 and 30 recipients. If you wish to nominate a junior colleague who has excelled in RAMP-related activities, please contact RAMP-support. Self-nominations are also permitted in which case the names of two referees will be needed; please also contact RAMP-support.

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