Archive / INF Seminars / INF_2022_03_17_Ernst_Wit
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2 Data Science cases studies on the COVID-19 pandemic





USI Campus EST, room D5.01, Sector D // online on MS Teams
12:15 - 13:30

Ernst C. Wit
Università della Svizzera Italiana
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Although the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over and in fact is resurging in many places across the world, including Switzerland, our response to the pandemic has clearly changed dramatically - as can be seen from this in-person lunch seminar! Which of our responses to the pandemic is more sensible and did we get it wrong then or now, or both? We focus on 2 cases studies. Knowing the infection fatality ratio (IFR) is of crucial importance for evidence-based epidemic management: for immediate planning; for balancing the life years saved against the life years lost due the consequences of management; and for evaluating the ethical issues associated with the tacit willingness to pay substantially more for life years lost to the epidemic, than for those to other diseases. We focus on the situation at the beginning of the pandemic, to see if we could have known how deadly the disease was. One preferred management technique of many countries has been the lockdown. It was claimed that this was the only way to get the pandemic under control. Many Asian and pacific countries have introduced severe lockdowns at great economic cost. However, is it really true that only lockdowns could bring the situation under control? We focus our second case study on the situation during the second wave.

Professor Ernst C. Wit is Professor of Statistics and Data Science at the Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, Switzerland. He serves as the director of the Institute of Computing and as vice dean of the Faculty of Informatics. Prof. Wit obtained PhDs in Philosophy (1997, Penn State) and Statistics (2000, University of Chicago) in the US. From 2000 until 2005 he was in the Statistics Department at the University of Glasgow, where he became a Reader. In 2005 he became head of the Medical Statistics Unit (12 FTE) at the University of Lancaster as full professor. As Director he implemented a thriving Master in Statistics programme. From 2008 until 2018 Wit was at the University of Groningen, for the last 4 years as head of the Mathematics Department. Since 2018 he is working in Switzerland, where he has continued to work on methodological development in high-dimensional inference with a specific focus on network modelling. He is the author of 130 peer-reviewed publications. He has served as the President of the European Bernoulli Society and as member of the Board of Directors of the International Biometrics Society. He was president of the Dutch Biostatistics Society. He is a founding member of the Data Science and Systems Complexity Center (DSSC), which also established a Data Science Master and a Statistics and Big Data Master, at the University of Groningen. Wit has presided over a European COST Action, entitled COSTNET (CA15109, 2015-2020), that has dealt with novel methods for statistical network science and that brought together over 500 researchers from 34 countries throughout Europe.

Currently, Wit is leading 2 SNSF projects on Sparse Network Inference and on the Dynamics of Innovation. He is a co-PI on the EU Periscope project on modelling the side-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, Wit advises the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Netherlands on statistical matters relating to elections and referendums since 2014.