Responsible Modeling during Pandemics


Our first podcast about risk communications and research ethics was well received but also opened up the elephant in the room: how do you responsibly model epidemic data? 

This podcast discussed informative topics and principles about epidemic modeling, the risks and caveats of imperfect information, and how the public health sector and data scientists can collaborate on better information for the public on COVID-19:

  • Epidemic Models: Phenomological (Data-fitting) vs. Mechanistic (Compartamental)
  • SEIR Modeling (Susceptible, Exposed, Infectious, Recovered) and parameters
  • Numbers vs. Insights
  • Defining Reproductive Number (R0)
  • When will the epidemic likely peak?
  • “Flattening the curve”
  • Effects of Quarantine and Social Distancing
  • Data input: Cumulative Cases vs. Frequency of New Cases per day
  • Exponential Growth Modeling
  • Limitations of Models: Assumptions and Data
  • “We should not allow the perfect be the enemy of good”
  • The moral dilemma of modelers: disclosing preliminary results to the public
  • How would the public benefit from infection forecasts

We were joined by three experts who have openly published work recently regarding COVID-19 forecasts:

  • Dr. Jomar Rabajante, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Biology (UPLB)
  • Dr. Darwin Bandoy, Genomic Data Scientist, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (UP)
  • Dr. Erika Legara, Director, Data Science Program (AIM)

About Our Guest Panelists


Dr. Jomar Rabajante is a Professor of Applied Mathematics (Mathematical Biology) at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics, University of the Philippines Los Baños. He holds an appointment as Junior Associate at the Quantitative Life Sciences Group of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste Italy.


Dr. Darwin Bandoy is a PhD Candidate of the Integrative Pathobiology at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, the number one veterinary school in the world with PCARI One Health PhD Scholarship. His principal investigator, Dr Bart Weimer is the Director of 100K Pathogen Genome Project and has published seminal papers in bacterial genomics together with the co-inventor random forests (Prof. Adele Cutler). Dr. Bandoy registered 10th highest GWA in UP College of VetMed since its founding in 1908, where he is currently on academic leave as an assistant professor. Dr. Bandoy is applying machine learning, whole genome sequencing of pathogens and infectious disease models for One Health Diseases.


Dr. Erika Legara is a physicist and a complex systems scientist. She holds an Aboitiz Chair in Data Science and is the Program Director of AIM’s MS in Data Science program. She is also a Senior Scientist at the ACCeSs@AIM R&D lab. Prior to joining AIM, she held a Scientist III position with the Singapore government from 2012-2017 where she worked closely with Industry R&D teams and other government agencies in building and deploying data-driven decision-support tools.

Useful Links and References


Rappler articles:

Dr. Rabajante’s interview on ANC

Dr. Bandoy’s guesting on RTVM

[PAASE Webinars] Dr. Jomar Rabajante’s Webinar on COVID 19 models

PH Scientist: It would take 2 to 3 months to flatten Covid-19 curve in PH | ANC