Categories and Epidemiology

I gave a talk about my work using category theory to help design software for epidemic modeling:

Category theory and epidemiology, African Mathematics Seminar, Wednesday November 2, 2022, 3 pm Nairobi time or noon UTC. Organized by Layla Sorkatti and Jared Ongaro.

This talk was a lot less technical than previous ones I’ve given on this subject, which were aimed mainly at category theorists! You can see it here:

Abstract. Category theory provides a general framework for building models of dynamical systems. We explain this framework and illustrate it with the example of “stock and flow diagrams”. These diagrams are widely used for simulations in epidemiology. Although tools already exist for drawing these diagrams and solving the systems of differential equations they describe, we have created a new software package called StockFlow which uses ideas from category theory to overcome some limitations of existing software. We illustrate this with code in StockFlow that implements a simplified version of a COVID-19 model used in Canada. This is joint work with Xiaoyan Li, Sophie Libkind, Nathaniel Osgood and Evan Patterson.

Check out these papers for more:

• John Baez, Xiaoyan Li, Sophie Libkind, Nathaniel Osgood and Evan Patterson, Compositional modeling with stock and flow diagrams.

• Andrew Baas, James Fairbanks, Micah Halter, Sophie Libkind and Evan Patterson, An algebraic framework for structured epidemic modeling.

For some more mathematical talks on the same subject, go here.

One Response to Categories and Epidemiology

  1. John Baez says:

    The video is up now, and I’ve added links to my slides, some papers, and some other talks.

    The slide with nothing but a four-part picture has an interesting tale to go with it, which explains why diagrammatic methods are so useful for getting lots of people in a community involved in modeling. I tell this tale in the YouTube video. This tale goes back to Peter Hovmand, and it may be told in this paper:

    • Peter Hovmand, Group model building and community-based system dynamics process, in Community Based System Dynamics, Springer, Berlin, pp. 17–30.

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