On the mathematical frontline: The podcast

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Since March 2020 we have done a lot of reporting on the maths of the COVID-19 pandemic. Behind the maths there are of course people — those mathematicians who make the epidemiological models that do (and sometimes do not do not) inform government policy, who are grappling with the unprecedented challenge of coming to grips with a live pandemic unfolding in front of their eyes.

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Our special podcast series, On the mathematical frontline, is about those people. It explores the maths they do, how they go about it, and the impact it has on their personal lives. The epidemiologists we talk to are all members of the JUNIPER consortium of modelling groups from across the UK whose research and insights feed into the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (otherwise known as SPI-M) and SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, both of which advise the UK government on the scientific aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The work and personal experiences of these epidemiologists are fascinating and thought-provoking. We hope you enjoy listening!

Julia Gog — Julia Gog used to see herself as a backroom theoretician, but when the pandemic struck she stepped up to the challenge of a generation. She is now one of the two leads of JUNIPER and indispensable as government advisor.

Mike Tildesley — You many have heard Mike Tildesley being interviewed in the media. Find out about his unusual route into epidemiology, the work he's doing on the pandemic, and about the highs and lows of working on the mathematical frontline.

Ellen Brooks Pollock and Leon Danon — It was Ellen Brooks Pollock's and Leon Danon's work which showed that it was safe for single people to bubble up with other households during lockdown. But that's only part of the work they did as a professional team and also as a couple.

Ed Hill — Ed Hill has been working on the COVID-19 pandemic right from the start, providing government with essential epidemiological advice.

Francesca Scarabel — Francesca Scarabel may be early on in her research career, but she has already been part of the UK's emergency mathematical response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matt Keeling — Epidemiologist Matt Keeling is the other co-lead of JUNIPER. He tells us about his work on the roadmap out of lockdown, whether the models have been too pessimistic, and what it's been like producing scientific results that carry so much weight.

Tom Irving — Tom Irving worked frequently with members of JUNIPER through his role on the modelling group SPI-M that advised the UK government. He tells us about providing a bridge between policy and mathematics during the pandemic, the importance of transparency, and discussing the R number at the hair dressers.

These podcasts are part of our collaboration with JUNIPER, the Joint UNIversity Pandemic and Epidemic Response modelling consortium. JUNIPER comprises academics from the universities of Cambridge, Warwick, Bristol, Exeter, Oxford, Manchester, and Lancaster, who are using a range of mathematical and statistical techniques to address pressing questions about the control of COVID-19. You can see more content produced with JUNIPER here.

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