Panel discussion: Data Analytics and the Battle Against the Pandemic

Data analytics’ crucial role in the battle against the pandemic


On 18 March, Bocconi University hosted the latest event in the CIVICA Public Lecture Series Tours d'Europe, promoting a greater dialogue between researchers and society at large.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of data analytics in studying the characteristics and spread of the virus, monitoring behavioural responses of societies, helping formulate public policy, and more. This role was at the centre of the discussion of the latest CIVICA Public Lecture Tours d'Europe, hosted virtually by Bocconi University on 18 March.

"The purpose of CIVICA is to be not only the sum of the parts, but to be a multiplier, willing to raise the bar and produce something great for Europe and society as a whole," said Stefano Caselli, Dean for International Affairs at Bocconi, introducing the debate. “Sharing and disseminating the outcomes of impactful research in the social sciences aim at supporting effective responses to the major challenges facing our society.”

In the CIVICA Public Lecture Series Tours d'Europe, hosted in turn by the various member universities of the alliance, researchers present their recent findings and interrogations on timely topics to the general public. The series aims to strengthen citizens' knowledge base and to facilitate a direct dialogue between social science researchers and the wider society.

“COVID-19 has made clear two things: we can use data to fight the pandemic and we can use the social sciences, together with other disciplines, to guide our responses in a crucial way,” underlined Francesco Billari, Professor of Demography and Dean of the Faculty at Bocconi, who moderated the debate on “Data Analytics and the Battle against the Pandemic.”

Alessia Melegaro, Associate Professor in Demography at Bocconi and Director of the Bocconi Covid Crisis Lab, discussed the use of mathematical modelling to study characteristics and trends of Covid-19 transmission and the importance of incorporating human behaviour. Márton Karsai, Professor in the Department of Network and Data Science at Central European University, talked about the importance and challenges of collecting data to monitor human behaviour changes in order to understand the evolution of Covid-19. Additionally,David K. Levine, Department of Economics and Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Joint Chair at European University Institute, underlined the importance of the use of data to fight COVID-19 and the efforts to promote the benefits of social science research for public policy.

With research as one of its pillars, CIVICA aims to build bridges between academia and civil society, and to support policy-makers in crafting evidence-based responses. In response to this goal, the CIVICA Public Lecture Series Tours d’Europe promotes social science research to a general audience, in order to enhance public awareness of current issues. Especially in the context of COVID-19, the social sciences are central to understanding the present and future impact of crises on society.

Watch a video of the debate below.

Written by Tomaso Eridani (Bocconi University)

Data Analytics and the Battle Against the Pandemic (CIVICA Public Lecture #2)