First Annual Meeting of the Modeling Network for Severe Infectious Diseases MONID in Berlin

At the “First National Conference on Infectious Disease Modeling”, more than 100 national and international scientists gathered in Berlin for the first time to work together to further strengthen modeling expertise in Germany.

The BMBF-funded Modeling Network for Severe Infectious Diseases (MONID) can look back with satisfaction on its first successful annual conference. From Wednesday, 15.03.2023 to Friday, 17.03.2023, more than 100 modelers gathered at the Zuse Institute Berlin to share their research results at the “First National Conference on Infectious Disease Modeling” and to discuss how modeling can be designed and communicated in the future. The result: three days full of exciting presentations, intensive discussions, talented young modelers and a lot of potential to make Germany internationally visible as a research location in the field of modeling infectious diseases.

At the start of the conference, the participants were welcomed by high-ranking representatives from politics and science: The President of the Zuse Institute Prof. Christof Schütte, the Parliamentary State Secretary Mario Brandenburg and the Vice President of the Robert Koch Institute Prof. Lars Schaade addressed the participants. In his video message, State Secretary Mario Brandenburg emphasized the particular importance of infection epidemiology models. Being able to predict the incidence of infection and evaluate containment measures is an enormously important tool in the fight against infection. Representatives of the BMBF, which funds the network, and the responsible employees of the Jülich project management organization were also able to see for themselves the fruits of their research funding.

The main focus of the first annual conference was on networking between the members of MONID and presenting their research activities and initial results. The spectrum of research topics covered by the consortia ranges from wastewater analysis to the optimization of traffic flows in times of pandemic, the significance of heterogeneous population structures on the incidence of infection, the investigation of school closures and other measures in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the epidemic-related resource requirements of hospitals and the consideration of the interactions between the infodemic and the pandemic (learn more).

Exciting input for discussions was also provided by the four invited international keynote speakers, whose presentations gave an insight into the experiences of modelers across Europe during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mark Jit from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reported from the UK on the challenges faced by modelers during the pandemic and the lessons learned for the future. Niki Popper from the Vienna University of Technology and Gergely Röst from the University of Szeged gave the conference participants an insight into the national challenges and the handling of the pandemic in Austria and Hungary. Frank Sandmann from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) rounded off the reports with his keynote speech on the pan-European perspective on modeling the Covid-19 pandemic and his insights from the European COVID-19 Scenario Hub. All international experts agreed on one thing: sustainably funded, national modeling competencies are an important pillar for a joint fight against pandemics at European level.

Another highlight of the conference was the poster session organized as part of the promotion of young researchers, in which 19 doctoral students from the various networks took part. The young modelers presented their research work in an inspiring way in unanimous elevator pitches, as they are usually known from the start-up sector, and invited the participants to view their posters in the session that followed in the evening. The promotion of young scientists is a particular concern of the network, which is why the three best posters were awarded prizes.

In summary, the conference once again made it clear how much potential there is in the scientific community of modelers in Germany and how highly motivated and inspired research is in this area. Highly complex infection epidemiology models can only be developed on an interdisciplinary and collaborative basis. They are an indispensable tool in the fight against the uncontrolled spread of new and already endemic pathogens and a way of avoiding overloads in healthcare outside of pandemic times. This will require continuous efforts and investment in the development of structures to promote modeling expertise in order to establish Germany as a leading research location in this field. Global health problems such as researching and combating serious infectious diseases can only be tackled collectively, the Executive Board of the modeling network emphasized once again at the end of the conference.