By

Ruth Etzioni

15
Jul
2020

Do We Need Models Anymore?

Long ago, in the early days of the pandemic, models were everywhere in the news. As our lives were upended and everything became uncertain, models were there to provide some predictability in the face of the unknown. Never mind that predictions varied wildly – between models, and even within the same model at different time points. The models agreed that...
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19
May
2020

Getting the COVID-19 Numbers Wrong

When I was in college, everyone wanted to major in psychology. I signed up, but switched out after only a few weeks. Why? Well, the more I read, the less I seemed to know. Psychology, after all, is an inexact science. I sought refuge in the exact worlds of computer science and mathematics. Those courses led me to build a...
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5
May
2020

Giving Models and Modelers a Bad Name

As someone who has spent a career building and studying disease models, primarily for cancer, the latest update from Chris Murray and the IHME model makes me cringe. The IHME model, readers will recall, has been frequently cited by the White House coronavirus task force. On May 4, the IHME called a press conference to release the results of their...
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14
Apr
2020

Why COVID-19 Can’t Be Directly Compared With the Flu

A few years ago, I was preparing for a live radio interview about prostate cancer screening, my main area of research for the past 20 years. As a statistician focused on getting the numbers right, I disagreed strongly with the new national recommendation from an influential task force that guides practice and reimbursement. Members of that task force argued against...
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7
Apr
2020

COVID-19 Models: What Makes Them Tick?

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, questions about its likely course are much on our minds. How long will it last? How bad will it get? And are we doing enough to flatten the curve? These questions are not about the past, but about the future. Models are now frequently cited in public by elected leaders to inform expectations and justify...
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