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June 18, 2018

Network Science and Global Health: A Harmonious Partnership Highlighted at the NetSci 2018 Conference in Paris

By Grant Rosensteel (C'19)

On June 12, 2018, I attended the NetSci Conference in Paris, France, and presented on my current GHI affiliated research titled, “Defining an Epidemiological Geography of the United States: Influenza as a Case Study” at the Integration of Empirical Data in Network Epidemiology Symposium.

NetSci is one of the largest annual Network Science conferences that covers a wide range of topics from computer science to finance. Attendees—from undergraduate students to tenured professors—came from across the globe and various fields to present their original research and contribute to an interdisciplinary community focused on harnessing the power of networks in their own fields.

Network science is an area of research that many life scientists, especially those studying infectious disease and health, have recently begun to incorporate into their own work. NetSci had four disease, health, and epidemiology-related symposia this year, which is a testament to the importance of harnessing network science in these disciplines. The four symposia were: “Contagions & Networks: Progress and Issues with Models and Data,” “Networks in Disease Ecology: Modeling Interacting Pathogens, Multiple Host Layers, and Evolution,” “Livestock Movement Networks and Infectious Diseases: Building a Cohesive Interdisciplinary Community,” and “Integration of Empirical Data in Network Epidemiology.”

A variety of talks were closely aligned with global health and demonstrate the power that harnessing network science to combat global health problems has. A few examples include: “Assessing the Role of a Patient Transfer Network in the Spread of Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae: the Case of France Between 2012-2015,” “Infection-induced Behavior Change: Impact on Epidemiological Prediction and Inference,” and “Geographic Variability and Diffusion in the Opioid Epidemic: Putting Families in Context.” While these presentations covered different health and epidemiology related questions, the one thing they all had in common was that they used network science as a novel way to gain insight into issues that otherwise would have remained unanswered.

Conferences like NetSci are important for the future of global health because they promote collaboration, push scientific boundaries, encourage dialogue across disciplines, and allow for students of all experience levels to present their own research and learn about what their peers from across the world are working on. Diseases are humanity’s original enemy, and in order to combat them in an increasingly precarious future, we need to encourage young scientists to pursue original research, present their work, and to have hope that we are always innovating and finding new ways to strengthen global health.

Grant Rosensteel (C'19) is an undergraduate studying biology of global health and a student fellow with the Global Health Initiative.