Friday links: new National Academy members, pandemic vs. new profs, and more (UPDATED)

Also this week: top UK epidemiologist Neil Ferguson resigns from government advisory position, Harvard report on Jeffrey Epstein, cartoons vs. lockdown life, great pandemic models, terrible pandemic models, math games for kids, and more. Links from all three Dynamic Ecologists this week!

From Jeremy:

The US National Academy of Sciences has elected new members and international members. Congratulations to ecologists and evolutionary biologists Elizabeth Ainsworth, Anna “Kay” Behrensmeyer, Nora Besansky, Joel Blum, James Clark, Ellen Druffel, James Galloway, Loren Rieseberg, Mark Stoneking, Spencer Barrett, Jane Elith, and Bo Jorgensen. Apologies if I missed anyone in my skim of the list, let me know in the comments and I’ll update the post if needed. (ht a correspondent) (UPDATE: Congratulations as well to Molly Przeworski and Mark Kirkpatrick, and apologies for missing them in my initial skim of the list.)

Congratulations to evolutionary biologist John Endler on election as a Fellow of the Royal Society. (ht a correspondent)

6 pen-and-paper math games you can play against your kids. Looking forward to trying these.

Harvard University has published its report on convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s donations to, and interactions with, the university, particularly Martin Nowak’s Program on Evolutionary Dynamics. That program was established by a $6.5 M donation from Epstein before his 2006 arrest. Even after his 2008 conviction, Epstein maintained various connections with Nowak and the program. Nowak has been placed on administrative leave while Harvard considers the next steps to take. (ht @kjhealy)

Amy Parachnowitsch on being a new prof in the age of COVID-19.

Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, one of the lead scientists advising the British government on its response to the coronavirus pandemic, has resigned from his government advisory position. I’m going to make you click through for the reason, because I can’t even.

I know everyone’s criticizing the IHME model of COVID-19, for good reason, but at least the IHME folks didn’t just fit a frickin’ cubic polynomial to the time series of recorded US COVID-19 deaths and then extrapolate it. Which is what influential White House official and hack economist Kevin Hassett did. Yes, it really was a cubic polynomial fit in Excel, not a cubic spline (not that fitting and extrapolating a cubic spline would be a good forecasting method either…) I leave it to you to decide if it’s good or bad that apparently the cubic polynomial was extrapolated in some ad hoc way to keep the extrapolated deaths from going negative by late May. Dear lord. I have no idea how important this is compared to everything else scary and appalling about the COVID-19 outbreak and the US federal government’s response to it. But it just goes to show that, in some respect or other, things can always be even worse (and dumber) than you imagined. I guess I’ll have to turn this into a “statistical vignette of the day” for my intro biostats students.

To cleanse that last item from your brain, I suggest having a look at some of the many useful threads out there summarizing what we’re learning about the coronavirus outbreak and how it could inform policy. For instance, here’s virologist Muge Cevik’s review of what we’ve learned about coronavirus transmission from contact tracing studies. And here’s a slick new website from Luis Zaman that lets you run dynamical simulations of disease models in your browser and play with the parameters. Seems like it has potential as a public education tool.

Lord of the Rings, from the One Ring’s perspective. The One Ring only has One Joke, but it’s an amusing brief distraction. 🙂 (ht @jtlevy)

Further to our recent post on what the fall term might look like if it has to be taught at least partially online:



Like all foxes, I know many things. I learn them from reading the newspaper. The obvious “Fox News” jokes are left as an exercise for commenters. 🙂

From Meghan:

I love these comics on family life during lockdown, by artist Joeri Christiaen. This is the one I first saw that made me seek out more:

My colleague Luis Zaman has built a tool to help people develop an intuition for the dynamics of infectious diseases. One reason he built it is for a course on the ecology & evolution of infectious diseases that he’ll be teaching this fall; it’s likely to be of interest (and teaching use!) to others, too! [Jeremy adds: hey, that was my link! Give it back! :-)]

Too true (though, for Daphnia disease work, it’s more likely to be some guy in the 1880s!):

From Brian:

By *far* the best explanation of the population dynamics of COVID and how various managements strategies change it:   It will take a good 15-20 minutes to read it and many readers of this blog will know some or all of this. Has simulations to let you try your own scenarios. Great way to explain things to friends and family members.

3 thoughts on “Friday links: new National Academy members, pandemic vs. new profs, and more (UPDATED)

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