Complexity science offers a wealth of tools for understanding pandemics. At the applied level, epidemiologists use network-science techniques developed at SFI in the early 2000s to track outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics like Ebola, SARS, influenza, and the novel coronavirus. 

Beyond the crucial work of tracking and preventing the spread of biological contagions, complexity science can also shed light on “coupled” problems — the social consequences of pandemic-related misinformation, for example, or the long-term economic repercussions of shutting down global economies.

To present expert perspectives on the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic, SFI has launched an online series called “Transmission.” President David Krakauer, who initiated the series, envisions a collection of short, accessible media created by SFI faculty, on topics related to their scientific expertise.

“Very important work is being done by SFI scientists of direct relevance to the pandemic,” Krakauer says, “and the SFI community also has novel insights that might help people deal with the situation more broadly.” 

He cites SFI researchers who are working to monitor and model the COVID-19 pandemic, to develop vaccines and tests, and to project the socio-economic impact of the pandemic and plot paths to recovery. 

The series launched Monday, March 30, with five SFI-authored insights. Krakauer himself penned T-000, which makes the case for eliminating coronavirus through “citizen-based medicine.”

T-001 by Omidyar Fellow David Kinney takes up the issue of scientists needing to sacrifice a level of certainty in order to provide clear recommendations to policymakers, while External Professor John Harte speaks out against conflicting recommendations on allowable group size in T-002. The third transmission, by External Professor Jürgen Jost and his collaborator Luu Hoang Duc, presents techniques for analyzing inconsistent data on COVID-19 case counts and deaths. T-004, by External Professor Simon DeDeo, asks how we can win “the quarantine end-game,” by creating and communicating new guidelines for social interaction.

The series will continue for the foreseeable future, with new insights published every Monday at