Lancaster statisticians recognised for pandemic modelling

Dr Jonathan Read; Professor Christopher Jewell
Dr Jonathan Read; Professor Christopher Jewell

Lancaster University statisticians are being recognised for their work supporting the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Christopher Jewell, Professor of Statistics in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and Dr Jonathan Read, a Senior Lecturer of Biostatistics in the Lancaster University Medical School, are joint recipients of the prestigious Weldon Memorial Prize along with other members of the SPI-M-O group.

The SPI-M-O (Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling) group, which reports to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), supported the UK’s response to the pandemic through epidemiological modelling work. Under great pressure to deliver quick results, and under great public scrutiny, the group built on existing science and developed new epidemiological and statistical techniques to understand the spread of the coronavirus and how it might be controlled.

The Weldon Memorial Prize is awarded annually by Oxford University for ‘noteworthy contributions in the development of mathematical or statistical methods applied to problems in biology’. This is the first time in its history that the Prize, which has been awarded since 1911, has been given to a group rather than an individual.

Professor Jewell said: “This is a fantastic accolade to have been awarded, and a feather in our team at Lancaster’s cap. It is particularly fitting as the award was previously given to Maurice Bartlett, upon whose foundational work on stochastic epidemics in the 1950s we have mostly built our careers.”

Dr Read said: “It is a testament to the enormous effort and important collaborative research conducted at pace for SPI-M-O, at Lancaster and other institutions, that the prize is being awarded as a joint prize for the first time. I’m very proud to have been part of that endeavour and to attend the prizing giving event on behalf of the Lancaster University team.”

Professor Gordon Blower, Head of Lancaster University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, said: “Chris Jewell and Jon Read made an outstanding contribution by predicting the evolution of a pandemic. This work is a significant achievement of computational statistics as developed by Lancaster University and partner organisations.”

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