Business schools could play a crucial role in helping governments prepare for the next pandemic by developing the next generation of the modelling and simulation community. Simulation modelling is an area of teaching and research found in many elite business schools.
COVID-19 looks set to be the worst infectious disease pandemic of a generation in terms of numbers infected, mortalities, the unprecedented demand for healthcare services and the social-economic costs. To date (30th of April 2020) according to WHO data more than 3m people globally have tested positive for the disease with a death rate currently running at around 7% and 30% recovered to date. The economic consequences from organisational shutdowns and other measures taken, such as school closures, are just beginning to emerge.
Governments appear to have relied heavily on epidemiological computer simulations to determine the spread of COVID-19; to flatten the growth curve of the disease and to reduce the pressure on the healthcare systems. However, the pandemic raises many more economic and societal challenges that other computer simulations could be equally useful in addressing.
A recent paper published in the Journal of Simulation (Currie et al 2020) identifies a set of problems raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly suited to simulation modelling. For each, we describe the problem, how it might be modelled and any specific data requirements. The aim of this being to provide modellers and decision-makers with some initial ideas where simulation modelling has been shown to be useful in addressing problems that have arisen during this pandemic and likely to arise in any future pandemic. For example, a computer simulation model can answer questions about how many ventilators, medical staff and PPE are needed in a specific region given its demographic. Aside from identifying problems the article also proposes a research agenda for the simulation modelling community.
Simulation is generally considered a niche area of expertise but its impact and potential have now become evident. The simulations offer a virtual environment to test the outcome of different scenarios rather than experimenting with the real population. Developing the models often helps to engender a much better understanding of the system as a whole. The modelling and simulation community should now consider their role in contributing to both improving the understanding of the disease and planning to make better decisions that reduce its impact.
With simulation models often applied to organisational problems in a variety of industries, business schools offer a fertile environment for engagement with business. Many of the authors of this paper are based within business schools or have emerged through these in developing this expertise. Therefore, the role of business schools could be crucial in developing modelling and simulation study hubs and in increasing the global capacity in this expertise. “Preparing for the next pandemic will involve creating an army of modelling and simulation practitioners and experts needed to support mitigation efforts as well as address the vast number of challenges during the response and recovery phases of a pandemic” explains Dr Kotiadis.
Christine S.M. Currie, John W. Fowler, Kathy Kotiadis, Thomas Monks, Bhakti Stephan Onggo, Duncan A. Robertson & Antuela A. Tako (2020) How simulation modelling can help reduce the impact of COVID-19, Journal of Simulation, DOI: 10.1080/17477778.2020.1751570
Find the full paper online