In the CIVICA Public Lecture Series Tours d'Europe, researchers from CIVICA member universities present their recent findings and interrogations on timely topics to the general public. The series aims to strengthen citizens' knowledge base and to facilitate a direct dialogue between social science researchers and the wider society.
Introductory remarks by Stefano Caselli
Recognising the centrality of social sciences for Europe’s future and making tangible contributions to society are at the heart of CIVICA’s mission as the European University of Social Sciences. Within the “European Universities” framework - through which the European Commission aims at fostering cooperation among universities in the areas of education, research, innovation and service to society - CIVICA’s activities unfold in nine lines of action including a virtual campus, student mobility, international attractiveness, research and civic outreach.
The COVID-19 outbreak has clearly shown the pivotal importance of evidence-based decision-making during healthcare emergencies and the key role of data-driven approaches for policy-making. Sharing and disseminating the outcomes of impactful research in the social sciences aim at supporting effective responses to the major challenges facing our society.
Stefano Caselli is Dean for International Affairs and Full Professor of Banking and Finance at Bocconi University, where he also holds the Algebris Chair in Long-Term Investment and Absolute Return. He covers several roles in the area of international affairs, including sitting on the Steering Committee of CIVICA, and the Management Board of CEMS, the Global Alliance in Management Education. He has conducted numerous research, training and consulting projects both with financial institutions at European level and with leading corporations. Caselli often appears as an expert guest speaker at international conferences.
Alessia Melegaro: "Mathematical models to understand SARS-CoV-2 transmission"
Mathematical modelling has been extensively used to study the characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 when it first entered human populations and to assess the spreading potential as well as the impact of control measures put in place by national and regional authorities. The development of these models and the outcomes that they generate are very much dependent on background demographic structures of the considered population as well as their social interactions. This talk provides an overview of epidemiological models that have been used to project the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in the initial phase of the pandemic in Italy and then present behavioural data that are required to generate the transmission chains.
Alessia Melegaro is an Associate Professor in Demography and Social Statistics at Bocconi University and the Director of the Bocconi Covid Crisis Lab. Her research interests focus on the use of mathematical modeling and statistical analysis techniques to evaluate public health intervention programs. In particular, she has been working extensively on infectious disease dynamics and vaccination strategies both in high and low-income countries.
Márton Karsai: "Monitoring behavioural responses during pandemic via online-offline data collection"
The unprecedented behavioural responses of societies have been evidently shaping the COVID-19 pandemic, yet it is a significant challenge to accurately monitor the continuously changing social mixing patterns in real time. Contact matrices, usually stratified by age, summarise interaction motifs efficiently, but their collection relies on conventional representative survey techniques, which are expensive and slow to obtain. This talk discusses a data collection effort involving over 2.3% of the Hungarian population to simultaneously record contact matrices through a longitudinal online and sequence of representative phone surveys. To correct non-representative biases characterising the online data, by using census data and the representative samples, we develop a reconstruction method to provide a scalable, cheap, and flexible way to dynamically obtain closer-to-representative contact matrices. Our results demonstrate the potential of combined online-offline data collections to understand the changing behavioural responses determining the future evolution of the outbreak, and inform epidemic models with crucial data.
Márton Karsai is Associate professor in the Department of Network and Data Science at the Central European University. Trained as a physicist, he is a network scientist with research interest in human dynamics, computational social science, and data science, especially focusing on systems with heterogeneous dynamics, spatial and temporal networks, socioeconomic systems and social and biological contagion phenomena. Among many other activities, he leads the data analytics team developing a national data collection framework on social responses to the COVID-19 crisis, as part of the Mathematical Epidemiology Workgroup advising the government in Hungary.
David Levine: “The role of the social sciences and social science data in the pandemic”
The social sciences are essential in formulating public policy to protect people while minimising economic harm. This includes the central issue of whether people will cheat on restrictions and whether they will restrict themselves even in the absence of explicit rules. On the economic side we have seen the importance of the way in which vaccines are tested and approved, and production is ramped up. On the political side we see fights between interest groups such as parents and teachers over school closures. On the legal side there are issues about the legality of restrictive measures. Social scientists can provide expert knowledge on all of these topics - provided they have access to good and relevant data. The social sciences, however, face particular data and organisational challenges that have made it difficult for public policy to fully benefit from the expertise of social scientists. These problems and possible solutions will be discussed.
David K. Levine is an economic theorist who has worked primarily on economic dynamics both in game theory and general equilibrium theory. He is currently Department of Economics and Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Study Joint Chair at the European University Institute; and John H. Biggs Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus at Washington University in St. Louis. Currently, Levine is working with other scholars on political economy, political institutions, evolutionary models of the state, and the formation and organization of interest groups. He has published extensively in leading professional journals and his scientific research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.
Francesco Billari is Full Professor of Demography and Dean of the Faculty at Bocconi University. He worked at the University of Oxford (Head of Department of Sociology), Nuffield College and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. His main interests are fertility and family change, the transition to adulthood, life course analysis, population forecasting, digitalization and demography, and comparative surveys. He has published in scientific journals in demography, economics, epidemiology and public health, geography, sociology, and statistics. Billari has worked on a number of international projects, and he is currently the PI of a European Research Council Advanced Grant.