Mathematics and simulation are essential tools in infectious disease control, enabling decision-makers to explore control policies before implementing them, interpret trends, and predict emerging threats. This project draws on our years of experience organizing and running courses on infectious disease dynamics in South Africa and builds on the foundation laid by earlier Clinics by promoting repeated interaction with the most promising students as they develop in their research careers. The proposed program comprises 2 distinct but overlapping International Clinics on Infectious Disease Dynamics and Data and a complementary research scholars exchange program. The Clinic on the Meaningful Modeling of Epidemiological Data (MMED), to be held annually in South Africa, targets quantitative scientists, including mathematicians, statisticians, computer scientists, and selected infectious disease epidemiologists. Participants engage with meaningful questions about infectious disease dynamics by integrating mathematical models with epidemiological data. We teach participants to use data to inform the construction of the simplest or clearest models appropriate to answer a given question, rather than on the development of complex mathematical models unrelated to data. The Clinic on Dynamic Approaches to Infectious Disease Data (DAIDD), to be held annually at the University of Florida, targets public health researchers and population biologists interested in studying infectious diseases. Instruction will focus on how the complex dynamics of pathogen transmission influence study design and data collection for addressing problems in infectious disease research. Participants will develop written research proposals for their systems of interest and will receive guidance in seeking out the resources necessary for carrying out their proposed research. The International Disease Dynamics and Data Research Scholars Exchange Program (I3D) will allow selected Clinic participants to engage further with Clinic faculty. The program will fund scholars to spend 6 weeks working on an approved research project at the faculty member's home institution. I3D scholars from Africa will work with faculty at North American institutions, and American I3D scholars will work with faculty at African institutions. The I3D scholars program will complement the two annual clinics to provide a near-continuous flow of collaborative research between the two continents.
Many important current problems in infectious disease control and prevention - such as the potential for test-and-treat programs to eliminate HIV/AIDS and the development of strategies for trachoma elimination - are best understood through a combination of mathematical models of infectious disease dynamics, well-designed field trials, and careful analysis of observational and experimental data. The International Clinics on Infectious Disease Dynamics and Data (ICI3D) program will provide a unique and much needed opportunity for junior researchers from the US and Africa to develop the toolsets necessary to conduct this type of research and to communicate their questions, methods, and findings across interdisciplinary boundaries. The proposed project will directly support over 150 junior investigators from the US and Africa and indirectly support an additional 150-200 African researchers through their participation in the Clinics on the Meaningful Modeling of Epidemiological Data, which will be directly supported by the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) and the African Institute for Mathematical Scientists (AIMS).
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