FENStatS News

What is the role of statisticians in the context of the COVID-19 crises?

The FENStatS initiates a wide discussion about what form we, the European statistical community, can and should get involved to overcome the current crisis. It is important that we statisticians do quickly and make our contribution to overcoming the current crisis. We are therefore counting on your interest and initiative in all possible directions in terms of research, data, models and much more.

 Austrian Statistical Society (Andreas Futschik)

  • Activity by the Austrian Statistical Society:  On our social media platform, we provide links to both national and international information on COVID-19 with a focus on data sources and statistical analyses.
  • Activities in Austria: To estimate the number of current undetected COVID cases in the country, a random survey that includes PCR-testing is currently carried out.
  • Austrian Statisticians provided advice concerning the survey design. Results are expected around April 10. There is a multidisciplinary expert team advising the Austrian government. Besides, there
    •    is also ongoing research involving medical statistics; Topics are clinical trials exploring possible therapies, as well as sample surveys concerning the physical well-being of the inhabitants 
    •    of some affected municipalities to better understand typical dynamics and symptoms of infections.

Concerning the current COVID-numbers reported by Austria, it should be noted that both tests and cases are currently reported on the day the data are transmitted to the federal epidemiological register ("epidemiologisches Meldesystem") which can be several days after the actual test. Different data sources are transmitting their data at different speeds, so the time span between testing and reporting varies. As positive tests are considered more important, they are often reported a few days earlier than negative ones.   The ratios between the total number of tests and positive cases should, therefore, be interpreted cautiously, at least when looking a daily basis.


Italian Statistical Society (Monica Pratesi)

SIS is working hard regarding Covid-19. We are translating the webpages dedicated to these activities.  



Concerning Germany, there are two ongoing activities/initiatives, which may be of interest for other colleagues in FENStatS societies:


Luxembourg Statistical Society:

On 26 March 2020, Research Luxembourg, an initiative of main players in public research in Luxembourg, announced the launch of a COVID-19 Task Force to offer the health system the combined expertise available within the Luxembourg public research sector. The Task Force set up more than 12 Work Packages (WPs) dedicated to different aspects of COVID-19. The Task Force aims at fostering collaboration and communication, at making the most of the existing skills and resources while avoiding duplication of work. The Task Force encompasses also coordination between Ministries (Ministry of Health, Ministry of Higher Education and Research, Ministry of Economic Affairs) and research community and possibly involving hospitals. In the three main work pillars the following aspects are investigated:

  • a prevalence study to assess the extent of the spread of the virus and the number of asymptomatic individuals;
  • a study stratifying the population with Covid-19 symptoms according to disease severity and following the trajectory of symptoms and the impact on health in the medium to long term;
  •  statistical simulations on the evolution, impact and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide short- and medium-term projections and thus facilitate decision-making on when restrictions could be lifted.

Statistical expertise is needed and many statisticians from public research institutes, the university and from the national statistical institute participate in the on-going work.

The Luxembourg Statistical Society supports the collaborative work of the Task Force and called statisticians and its members to get involved in the on-going work.

On its website, the Society publishes pedagogical texts, or links to such texts, helping to better understand the numbers behind the headlines, to choose the appropriate meaningful statistics, to be careful about data quality and data coverage and also to counter misinformation.


Royal Statistical Society:

In short, a summary of our stance and resources on the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen on our webpage. In addition, we've just held the first meeting of our COVID-19 Steering Group.


Spanish Society for Statistics and Operation Research:

The Spanish Society for Statistics and Operation Research is in the Spanish National Committee of Mathematics (CEMAT). There is a board of experts in this committee specific for COVID-19. Everything is centralized here creating a constructive debate between all the researchers working on this, for example, reporting predictions obtained by different groups every day. It happens that the president of CEMAT and the president of this committee are members and representatives of SEIO.


Irish Statistical Association:

Most ISA members are involved at some level in activities within our own institutions and at a national level.

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