Infectious diseases cause more than 13 million deaths per year worldwide. Rapid growth in human population and its ability to adapt to a variety of environmental conditions has resulted in unprecedented levels of interaction between humans and other species. This rise in interaction combined with emerging trends in globalization, anti-microbial resistance, urbanization, climate change, and ecological pressures has increased the risk of a global pandemic. Computation and data sciences can capture the complexities underlying these disease determinants and revolutionize real-time epidemiology --- leading to fundamentally new ways to reduce the global burden of infectious diseases that has plagued humanity for thousands of years. This Expeditions project will enable novel implementations of global infectious disease computational epidemiology by advancing computational foundations, engineering principles, theoretical understanding, and novel technologies. The innovative tools developed will provide new analytical capabilities to decision makers and result in improved science-based decision making for epidemic planning and response. They will facilitate enhanced inter-agency and inter-government coordination and outbreak response. The team will work closely with many local, regional, national, and international public health agencies and universities to apply and deploy powerful technologies during epidemic outbreaks that can be expected to occur during the course of the project. International scientific networks linked to a comprehensive postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate student training program will be established. Educational programs to foster interest in and increase understanding of computational science in addressing the complex societal challenges due to pandemics will also be developed. The team, with partners in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America, will produce multidisciplinary scientists with diverse skills related to public health.
The novel implementations of this project will be enabled by the development of a rigorous computational theory of spreading and control processes on dynamic multi-scale, multi-layer (MSML) networks, along with tools from AI, machine learning, and social sciences. New techniques resulting from this research will make it possible to develop and apply large-scale simulations of epidemics and social interactions over MSML networks. These simulations, in turn, will provide fundamentally new insights into how to control epidemics. Pervasive computing technologies will be developed to support disease surveillance and real-time response. The computational advances will also be generalizable; that is, they will be applicable to other areas such as cybersecurity, ecology, economics and social sciences. The project will take into account emerging concerns and constraints that include: preserving privacy of individuals and vulnerable groups, enabling model predictions to be interpreted and explained, developing effective interventions under uncertain and unknown network data, understanding strategic and adversarial behaviors of individual agents, and ensuring fairness of the process across the entire population. The research team includes experts from multiple disciplines and will address these societal concerns and constraints in practical, impactful, and novel ways, including the development of computational tools and techniques to support sound, ethical science-based policy pertaining to public health infectious disease epidemiology. Center for Computational Research in Epidemiology (CoRE) at the University of Virginia will be established as a part of the project. CoRE will develop transformative ways to support real-time epidemiology and facilitate improved outbreak response to benefit the society.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.