For individual-based models (IBMs) in epidemiology, thinking about links between a model’s complexity, its closeness to reality and its usefulness is pertinent. This is because the bottom-up, modular and hierarchical structure of this type of models makes it relatively easy to increase the level of heterogeneity and complexity represented by the model. Moreover, the rationale for doing so is often a desire to build more realistic models. The implicit belief is that by virtue of being more realistic, models also become more useful. But is this necessarily true?
The main contributions in this edition of the Quarterly give us a good indication of the kinds of questions that warrant modelling, and with which non-modellers can also better engage if they are willing to at least frame their thinking explicitly in model-like terms.
Diseases – like the examples of trypanosomes and HIV/AIDS – are not only perceived as causing negative effects; they also create jobs for people. Hence some people get nervous about what they are going to do when these diseases are under control. And is the latter actually going to happen?
As epidemiologists we constantly think about indicators and metrics. Given the well-known limitations of simplifying complex dependencies to one-dimensional indicators, isn’t it surprising that many academics have bought into the practice of measuring the quality and impact of their work by a handful of metrics? While books have been written about the need for more and better indicators of impact and excellence in academia, surprisingly little attention is given to the challenge and value of being engaged and excelling in non-academic activities. Some ideas around this are presented in this editorial.
The history of sub-Saharan Africa has been defined and determined to a large extent by the struggle against tropical diseases, many of them vector borne, including malaria, leishmaniasis, trypanosomiasis and many others. To add to this burden our continent has now to deal with the ravages of HIV and the consequent rise in tuberculosis. In this issue of the SACEMA Quarterly we discuss some of the key problems and ways in which we might be able to address and mitigate some of the challenges that we face in this regard.
Juliet Pulliam has recently taken over from Alex Welte as director of SACEMA. In this issue, she reflects on the challenges – and many exciting opportunities – ahead.
Having been involved in SACEMA since the start, and as director since 2010, Alex Welte is stepping aside to focus on research at the end of June 2016. In this article he shares his reflections on his time at SACEMA, so far.
We are changing the guard at SACEMA. Alex Welte, who has managed “the shop” so effectively for the last five years has decided to step down. His successor, Dr Juliet Pulliam of the University of Florida, is expected to succeed him in late June 2016. It is appropriate, then, to look back at Alex’s substantial contribution to our organisation.
While we all believe in ‘inter-disciplinary research’, the reality often falls short of the intention. How then can we begin to learn each others languages, hear what others are saying, use our joint knowledge and understanding to throw light on important problems, and hopefully make the world a slightly better place?
Policy makers, fellow scientists, media reporters and students are more likely to pay attention to epidemiologists who are able to articulate new research findings through a captivating narrative, a vivid mental picture or a striking infographic. Recent software developments have made it easy to produce web applications and reports that dynamically combine text, mathematical expressions, code chunks and the output of complex computations. The result is that researchers can adopt a more engaging, interactive form of storytelling.