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A national consortium bringing together modellers to produce rigorous predictions for the COVID-19 pandemic and advise UK government bodies will receive £3 million funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The JUNIPER consortium (‘Joint UNIversities Pandemic and Epidemiological Research’) brings together leading mathematical and statistical modellers from seven UK universities.

They are developing and using bespoke models to provide predictions and estimates on key questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. These results feed regularly into SPI-M, the modelling group that provides evidence to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and the wider UK government.

Examples of modelling the consortium provides to government includes:

  • Understanding how new variants are spreading across the UK and developing statistical models to determine whether a new variant is causing more hospitalisations or deaths.
  • Forecasting and providing real-time estimates of the R value, using data from many sources such as Pillar 1 and 2 testing, hospital data and mobility data. They are currently providing eight of 12 models contributing real time R estimates that go from SPI-M to SAGE each week.
  • Modelling the effectiveness of different testing strategies on virus transmission and suppression, and modelling the effect of vaccinations and predicting outcomes from different scenarios of how to ease lockdown restrictions.

The research groups in the Consortium are based at seven universities and include Professor Deirdre Hollingsworth of the Big Data Institute. The other universities are the University of Cambridge University of Warwick, University of Exeter, University of Bristol, The University of Manchester and Lancaster University.

They will work closely with many other organisations and research teams active on COVID-19 research including the Alan Turing Institute, the Royal Statistical Society, Health Data Research UK, Public Health England, the Royal Society’s ‘RAMP’ initiative and the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences.