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  • Julia M. Knox

Professor Melinda Mills, Dr Jennifer Dowd and team named Winners of O²RB Excellence in Impact Award

Professor Melinda Mills, Dr Jennifer Beam Dowd, and the team at the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science have been named Winners of the O²RB Excellence in Impact Awards 2021. The team was recognized for their phenomenal contributions to data-driven policy interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team at the Leverhulme Center for Demographic Science recently came together to speak about their approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We looked at social bubbles, and social networks, and how interaction with each other influenced the pandemic and the number of infections," explained Professor Melinda Mills, the Center's Director.
"But we also looked at a lot of social-behavioral interventions, things such as face coverings, vaccine hesitancy, and deployment, COVID certification and vaccine passports."

The team from the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science. Credit: John Cairns.

The team's contribution to policy intervention was driven by insights garnered from analyzing large datasets. The diverse sets of skills at the Center enables tackling problems with a multidisciplinary approach. Professor Jennifer Dowd, Deputy Director and Associate Professor of Demography and Population Health, emphasized the importance of multiple backgrounds among those in the Center, including her own expertise in infectious disease.

"Our work tried to address some of the problems policymakers faced in terms of lack of structured data sources. We undertook lots of simulation work [...] and tried to provide as much information, in terms of systematic reviews, to policymakers as possible," said Dr. Charles Rahal, Departmental Research Lecturer.

The group was commended on their ability to draw insights from large datasets, resulting in insights that benefited policy decisions.

"It's impressive how Melinda is about to access large amounts of data, and to statistically analyze those data to extract information that perhaps isn't obvious at the more granular level," said Professor Peter Bruce, Chair of the Science in Emergencies Tasking - COVID, The Royal Society.

The O²RB Excellence in Impact Award is given annually to recognize the outstanding achievements of social science researchers, especially those whose work has played an important role in economic or social impact.

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