Three Ways in Which Pandemic Models May Perform a Pandemic

Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 14 (1):110-127 (2021)
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Models not only represent but may also influence their targets in important ways. While models’ abilities to influence outcomes has been studied in the context of economic models, often under the label ‘performativity’, we argue that this phenomenon also pertains to epidemiological models, such as those used for forecasting the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic. After identifying three ways in which a model by the Covid-19 Response Team at Imperial College London may have influenced scientific advice, policy, and individual responses, we consider the implications of epidemiological models’ performative capacities. We argue, first, that performativity may impair models’ ability to successfully predict the course of an epidemic; but second, that it may provide an additional sense in which these models can be successful, namely by changing the course of an epidemic.

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Author Profiles

Lucie White
Utrecht University
Donal Khosrowi
Universität Hannover
Mathias Frisch
Universität Hannover

Citations of this work

What should scientists do about (harmful) interactive effects?Caterina Marchionni & Marion Godman - 2022 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 12 (4):1-16.
Fast Science.Jacob Stegenga - forthcoming - The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
Managing Performative Models.Donal Khosrowi - 2023 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 53 (5):371-395.

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Science and Policy in Extremis: The UK’s Initial Response to COVID-19.Jonathan Birch - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (3):90.

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