All the world’s human population is affected by the current pandemic of COVID-19, its potential impact on health, as well as related measures e.g. confinement and social distancing, which have an impact on our economies and communities. In this situation, all of us wish to help and contribute, in one way or the other. It has become clear that modelling and forecasting of the dynamics of the epidemic, its diffusion and the impact of various measures, is at the core of current decision-making for policy makers and other experts involved. Many of our colleague modellers and forecasters are involved in initiatives at both national and international levels to help with this crisis. More broadly, we see a strong interest, from both experts and non-experts in looking at numbers and trying to predict the number of new cases, deaths, spreading, economic consequences, etc. for this pandemic, through blog posts and postings on social medias.
The fact that models and forecasts are needed to respond to epidemics is certainly not new. However, in view of the current focus on the science and practice of forecasting in relation to epidemics, the team of editors of the International Journal of Forecasting (IJF) agreed on the fact that the journal should make a contribution by consolidating knowledge on modelling, nowcasting and forecasting for epidemics – obviously with an additional focus on the current COVID-19 situation. This special section will aim to describe the various approaches to look at this problem, e.g. covering the angles of epidemiology, network science, as well as statistical and machine learning. It will also concentrate on some of the specific challenges with such problems, for instance related to the data available and its accuracy, the problem of forecast verification with limited data and in a dynamic environment, the fact that forecasts are produced while also taking measures to affect the spreading of the epidemic, forecast uncertainty quantification and communication, etc. It may be complemented by other papers focusing on the economic implications and more generally on the interactions between epidemics and economic decisions. Various topics may be considered such as measuring and forecasting the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the macroeconomy and financial markets, historical lessons from previous pandemics, the role of increasing uncertainties or economic policy responses.
The preparation of the special section will start with a series of invited blog posts, to appear over the coming days and weeks on the International Institute of Forecasters (IIF) website. These will describe the contents of invited contributions for that special section. Invited papers will be submitted and reviewed throughout the Summer and Fall 2020, and they will appear online as soon as they are accepted. Invited comments and opinion papers will be gathered by a number of leading figures in forecasting, decision-making uncertainty, risk management, economics and epidemiology. In parallel, the special section will be complemented by papers presented at the Virtual IIF Workshop on “Economic forecasting in times of COVID-19” organized by Prof. Laurent Ferrara and Prof. Xuguang Simon Sheng. See announcement at https://forecasters.org/wp-content/uploads/26th-IIF-virtual-workshop.pdf
For the IJF team of editors,
Prof. Pierre Pinson
Editor in Chief
International Journal of Forecasting