Do ArXiv, a ser lido em tempos de pandemia:
Probing the Improbable: Methodological Challenges for Risks with Low Probabilities and High Stakes
Toby Ord, Rafaela Hillerbrand, Anders Sandberg
(Submitted on 30 Oct 2008)
Some risks have extremely high stakes. For example, a worldwide pandemic or asteroid impact could potentially kill more than a billion people. Comfortingly, scientific calculations often put very low probabilities on the occurrence of such catastrophes. In this paper, we argue that there are important new methodological problems which arise when assessing global catastrophic risks and we focus on a problem regarding probability estimation. When an expert provides a calculation of the probability of an outcome, they are really providing the probability of the outcome occurring, given that their argument is watertight. However, their argument may fail for a number of reasons such as a flaw in the underlying theory, a flaw in the modeling of the problem, or a mistake in the calculations. If the probability estimate given by an argument is dwarfed by the chance that the argument itself is flawed, then the estimate is suspect. We develop this idea formally, explaining how it differs from the related distinctions of model and parameter uncertainty. Using the risk estimates from the Large Hadron Collider as a test case, we show how serious the problem can be when it comes to catastrophic risks and how best to address it.
(Submitted on 20 Nov 2007 (v1), last revised 17 Dec 2007 (this version, v2))
This article reviews quantitative methods to estimate the basic reproduction number of pandemic influenza, a key threshold quantity to help determine the intensity of interventions required to control the disease. Although it is difficult to assess the transmission potential of a probable future pandemic, historical epidemiologic data is readily available from previous pandemics, and as a reference quantity for future pandemic planning, mathematical and statistical analyses of historical data are crucial. In particular, because many historical records tend to document only the temporal distribution of cases or deaths (i.e. epidemic curve), our review focuses on methods to maximize the utility of time-evolution data and to clarify the detailed mechanisms of the spread of influenza. First, we highlight structured epidemic models and their parameter estimation method which can quantify the detailed disease dynamics including those we cannot observe directly. Duration-structured epidemic systems are subsequently presented, offering firm understanding of the definition of the basic and effective reproduction numbers. When the initial growth phase of an epidemic is investigated, the distribution of the generation time is key statistical information to appropriately estimate the transmission potential using the intrinsic growth rate. Applications of stochastic processes are also highlighted to estimate the transmission potential using the similar data. Critically important characteristics of influenza data are subsequently summarized, followed by our conclusions to suggest potential future methodological improvements.
(Submitted on 6 Feb 2004)
Viral kinetics have been extensively studied in the past through the use of spatially homogeneous ordinary differential equations describing the time evolution of the diseased state. However, spatial characteristics such as localized populations of dead cells might adversely affect the spread of infection, similar to the manner in which a counter-fire can stop a forest fire from spreading. In order to investigate the influence of spatial heterogeneities on viral spread, a simple 2-D cellular automaton (CA) model of a viral infection has been developed. In this initial phase of the investigation, the CA model is validated against clinical immunological data for uncomplicated influenza A infections. Our results will be shown and discussed.