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The Social Sciences of Epidemic Disease Modelling

Project Overview

Disease modelling has been exceptionally influential in the current COVID-19 pandemic, often driving policies of physical distancing, ‘lock down’, travel restrictions, quarantine, curfew, and so on. Using social science methods, this workshop will examine historical and contemporary practices of infectious disease modelling in Australia, comparing them with other public health approaches to understanding and intervening in epidemic diseases. The workshop will facilitate a cross-disciplinary conversation between social science scholars, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, and policy makers to advance our understanding of what it means to model disease outbreaks. As emerging epidemics continue to pose a threat in and beyond Australia, such an approach will prove useful in enhancing decision-making in health and government institutions.

Study Design

Ethnograpic, qualitative and historical methods

Project Keywords

social sciences, disease modelling, epidemic intelligence, health data, behavioural sciences

Principal Investigator

Name: Sonja
Van Wichelen

Title: Associate Professor in Sociology

Department or Unit: Sociology and Social Policy

Organization: University of Sydney

Co-Project Investigators

  • Name: Warwick
    Title: Professor of History
    Department or Unit: Department of History
    Organization: University of Sydney

Funding Source

Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

Expected Study Timeline

January 1, 2021-May 1, 2022.

Study Design

Ethnograpic, qualitative and historical methods

Primary Methods of Data Collection

interviews and document analysis

Unit of Analysis

individuals and organizations

Study Population(s)

epidemiologists, biostatisticians, policymakers

Sample Size


Geographic Focus Area(s)


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