Currents 047: Samuel Scarpino on the Epidemiology of Covid-19

Jim has a wide-ranging talk with Samuel Scarpino on Covid-19 epidemiology and disease surveillance…

Jim has a wide-ranging talk with Samuel Scarpino on Covid-19 epidemiology and disease surveillance. They discuss some of the biggest surprises in Covid research since its beginning, the importance of understanding the evolutionary trajectory of the virus, the oscillation pattern of case rates, wastewater-based epidemiology, current bottlenecks in gene sequencing, the latest evidence about Omicron’s contagiousness & severity, obstacles created by HIPAA protections, how to build a data system that will be ready for the next pandemic, the role of interdisciplinary complex-systems research centers, a disaster scenario that keeps Scarpino up at night, herd immunity, social contact data from phones & what it would cost to process it all, how much more the US spends on weather data & defense than on pandemic data, and much more.

Samuel V. Scarpino, Ph.D. is the Managing Director of Pathogen Surveillance at The Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute. In addition, Dr. Scarpino is an Affiliate Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and holds appointments in the Network Science Institute, Institute for Experiential AI, Khoury College of Computer Sciences, Global Resilience Institute, and Roux Institute at Northeastern University. Scarpino has 10+ years of experience translating research into decision support and data science/ML tools across diverse sectors from public health and clinical medicine to real estate and energy. From 2017 to 2020, he was Chief Strategy Officer and head of data science at Dharma Platform–a social impact–technology startup.

Scarpino has nearly 100 publications in academic journals and books. His expert commentaries on science and technology have appeared in publications such as: Nature, Science, PNAS, and Nature Physics. His research has been covered by the New York Times, Wired, the Boston Globe, NPR, VICE News, National Geographic, and numerous other venues. For his contributions to complex systems science, he was made a Fellow of the ISI Foundation in 2017, an External Faculty member of the Santa Fe Institute in 2020, and an External Faculty member of the Vermont Complex Systems Center in 2021. Scarpino earned a Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin in 2013 and was a Santa Fe Institute Omidyar Fellow from 2013 – 2016.