Prof Devi Sridhar to head Royal Society’s pandemic data analysis group


Professor Devi Sridhar (Courtesy: Twitter)
Professor Devi Sridhar (Courtesy: Twitter)

BRITISH public health expert Devi Sridhar has been named as chair of the Royal Society’s new data analysis group to evaluate paramount factors in containing Covid-19, and “help find long-term solutions to the pandemic”.

Sridhar, a professor of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, will reportedly join a 13-member group that includes Nobel laureate Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, and Lalita Ramakrishnan, professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Cambridge.

Venki Ramakrishnan will chair the high-level expert committee to “oversee the work and communicate findings to the government’s chief scientific advisor”.

Sridhar, meanwhile, will head a team of data scientists and subject-matter experts to carry out data analysis, synthesis of results and rapid review

Incidentally, Sridhar, who’s associated with the WHO on policy and governance, was among the first to slam the UK government’s “herd immunity” strategy.

“Planning and preparing for unprecedented testing and using big data/apps for tracing were taken off the table. In my view, we went down the wrong path,” she had said, adding that she was a “friendly critic” of the government.

And, on Thursday (16), Sridhar termed plans to hold the Tour de France in August “a recipe for disaster”.

She said the pandemic was “a long-term problem, a chronic problem”, and the “wise thing to do is cancel for this year”.

The new group Sridhar heads — named DELVE (Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics) — will give analytical insights to the government through the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

DELVE will collate and study national and global data to assess “the effect of different measures and strategies on a range of public health, social and economic outcomes”.

“We are at a crucial juncture in the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said a statement from the Royal Society, the world’s oldest science academy, which was founded in 1660.

“There is a pressing need to analyse emerging data from countries around the world to identify the most important factors that can help slow the spread of the virus and help find long-term solutions to the pandemic.”

DELVE will track latest developments across the globe and coordinate and share findings with other international scientific bodies, it added.

“Science has helped to guide the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and there is more the community can do to complement existing efforts,” said the Royal Society.