Torbjörn Lundh

What is it like being a researcher in these times dominated by the coronavirus pandemic?

Torbjörn Lundh, professor of mathematics and Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Science:

“I feel that there is a positive force in the research community and it’s about wanting to contribute and do your bit to help, despite this being a dreadful situation for many people in our society. There many different ways this can happen. Some are printing visors on their 3D printers and others are thinking about whether their own research can help in easing the situation or solving various problems.”

What is it like for you more specifically?
“I’m working on several different projects centred on mathematical modelling. The goal is to make alternative forecasts and test scenarios such as keeping schools open or closed during the pandemic. Various international groups of researchers have arisen focused on COVID-19, and I am involved in one of these, launched by the European Mathematical Society, where we exchange models and information. I am also helping Sahlgrenska University Hospital in evaluating models to predict the need for intensive care.”

Is there one ultimate model?
“In the current debate many people are critical of various models and are putting forward their own. The criticisms range from the Public Health Agency of Sweden’s models not being sufficiently complex or transparent to whether models should be used at all. The fact that people look at models in very different ways leads to many misunderstandings.”

So what is your advice?
“My advice is that we need to attach greater value to using different types of model for the same phenomenon. A common misconception is for models only to be seen as a forecasting tool. If we instead use various types of model, we gain a broader understanding and as a result we learn more.”