Research & Development Labs

Drawing on centers of excellence in Canada, Australia, and Switzerland in the development and application of computer simulation and advanced research technologies to support health and social policy and planning, the existing technical laboratories in these countries have come together to undertake consolidated, coordinated and synergistic research and development activities to realize technical innovation, efficiency and training opportunities that would be difficult to achieve in isolation. Revenue from the Endowment Fund will be used to support technical advancements in computer simulation modelling, data assimilation, AI methods and integrated simulation-rapid response systems deemed to be of key strategic importance. The Research & Development Labs in each country serve as test-beds for computational tools and new technologies, provide intensive training environments for the development of technical competence and workforce capacity, and act as a sensor for evolving local needs and priorities.

The most mature of these Labs (the Computational Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics Laboratory (CEPHIL)  of the University of Saskatchewan) provides a model for achieving world-leading standards in technical development and training and provides guidance and support to the Australian and Swiss Hubs. In addition, CEPHIL has one of the first prototypes of multi-dimensional sentinel surveillance, data assimilation and rapid response systems which is being implemented in Saskatchewan Province, Canada. The prototype provides infrastructure for cross-sectoral data encryption and integration (across health, education, social services, policy and justice) for the purpose of decision support, early risk detection, and rapid response capability. CEPHIL and its regional collaborators are providing one of the first examples of the significant potential of a cross-sectoral approach employing advanced data science and computational methods to change adverse developmental trajectories in individuals through early intervention for child protection, mental health, drug and alcohol, domestic violence and suicide prevention.

The Complex Optimization & Decision Making (CODeM) Laboratory is based at the University of Sheffield, UK. CODeM is led by CSART Director Professor Robin Purshouse and undertakes research under two major themes: Advanced Decision Analytic Modeling, and Advanced Methods for Product & Process Design Optimization. CODeM researchers are engaged in a long-term program of methods and tools development in systems-based and mechanism-based modeling in support of policy appraisal and evaluation. A key application area over the last decade has been alcohol misuse prevention in both the UK and USA. Prof. Purshouse is also Co-Director of the Systems Science in Public Health & Health Economics Research (SIPHER) Consortium, which is a major new investment by the UK Prevention Research Partnership. SIPHER’s vision is a shift from health policy to healthy public policy – meaning all policy sectors working together to tackle health inequalities and improve the health of the public. SIPHER brings together scientists across six universities, three government partners at local, regional and national level, and ten practice partner organisations. Within SIPHER, CODeM researchers are working alongside government partners to co-produce sophisticated decision analytic tools in support of more effective and equitable public policy in the UK.

Tools to facilitate remote collaboration between the labs have been built (and new tools are under development), which are designed to enable remote individuals to collaborate around group model building and model-relevant visualization and insights. Further, these integrated R&D labs will inform the development and leveraging of novel data sources to inform computer simulation models for policy and planning internationally; with such data sources (e.g., sentinel-based smartphone data collection, monitoring of twitter or search query volume, etc.) typically allowing application in different jurisdictions.