Award for University of Limerick Covid statistics team

At the presentation of the UL President's Research Excellence Award were back (from left) - Dr Pádraig MacCarron, Ena Brophy, Dr David O’Sullivan, Dr Romina Gaburro and Dr James Sweeney. Front (from left) - Professor Helena Lenihan, Professor Norelee Kennedy, Professor James Gleeson, UL President Professor Kerstin Mey and Professor Norma Bargary.

THE University of Limerick team that was instrumental in developing a statistical model to guide the national response to Covid-19 is the latest recipient of the UL President’s Research Excellence Award for Outstanding Collaboration.

The Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science and Industry (MACSI) team helped  generate the model that guided the majority of NPHET recommendations and government decisions about restrictions, lockdowns, and the pace of easing of restrictions during the pandemic.

It developed the population-based susceptible-exposed-infected-removed (SEIR) model within weeks of being asked by the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group (IEMAG) to provide expert advice and forecast models on Covid-19 responses.

Professor James Gleeson, Professor of Industrial and Applied Mathematics at UL, led the project that was supported by a collaborative team in MACSI and experts in other Irish institutions.

They developed and extended models that assisted decision-making, and provided visualisations and evidence used by the Chief Medical Officer and other NPHET members when briefing Cabinet and the media.

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Since its establishment in 2006, MACSI has developed an international reputation for modelling real world problems that arise in industry, science and society.

The Outstanding Research Collaboration Award honours extraordinary accomplishments that have a significant global impact and recognises collaborations in research from all disciplines, organisations, and countries

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey said that Covid triggered an avalanche of responses from both inside and outside the UL community.”However, the collaborative approach taken during times of crises is what allows us to overcome the challenges we face, and the joint work undertaken by the MACSI team is an exemplar of the impactful research ongoing at University of Limerick.

“It was imperative that our reaction and decision-making was informed, and knowledge based. In the area of statistical modelling, Professor Gleeson and his team supported decision makers at the highest level of this country, and I am delighted that this valuable work is being recognised through this award.

Accepting the award on behalf of the MACSI team, Professor Gleeson said: “It’s a privilege to work with such a talented group of colleagues, and to apply our skills to an issue of national importance. Collaborations are hugely important to all the research work we do, and with the urgency of the Covid crisis it was crucial that we could call upon a wide network of existing links.”