When will the pandemic be over? Computer science may have the answer

In early 2022, virtually two several years immediately after Covid was declared a pandemic by the World Health and fitness Business, gurus are mulling a large issue: when is a pandemic “over”?

So, what is the answer? What conditions need to be utilised to identify the “end” of Covid’s pandemic period? These are deceptively easy thoughts and there are no uncomplicated answers.

I am a computer scientist who investigates the development of ontologies. In computing, ontologies are a suggests to formally structure knowledge of a subject matter domain, with its entities, relations, and constraints, so that a laptop or computer can system it in numerous purposes and assist individuals to be far more precise.

Ontologies can discover understanding that is been forgotten until finally now: in 1 occasion, an ontology determined two additional useful domains in phosphatases (a team of enzymes) and a novel domain architecture of a aspect of the enzyme. Ontologies also underlie Google’s Information Graph that’s at the rear of those people awareness panels on the appropriate-hand facet of a lookup final result.

Making use of ontologies to the thoughts I posed at the start is handy. This method assists to clarify why it is complicated to specify a lower-off position at which a pandemic can be declared “over”. The process includes collecting definitions and characterizations from domain industry experts, like epidemiologists and infectious sickness scientists, consulting related investigate and other ontologies, and investigating the character of what entity “X” is.

“X”, in this article, would be the pandemic itself – not a mere shorthand definition, but on the lookout into the qualities of that entity. These types of a precise characterization of the “X” will also reveal when an entity is “not an X”. For instance, if X = property, a property of houses is that they all should have a roof if some item doesn’t have a roof, it unquestionably isn’t a home.

With those attributes in hand, a precise, official specification can be formulated, aided by more solutions and tools. From that, the what or when of “X” – the pandemic is about or it is not – would logically observe. If it does not, at minimum it will be feasible to reveal why items are not that uncomplicated.

This form of precision complements health experts’ endeavours, assisting humans to be more precise and communicate much more exactly. It forces us to make implicit assumptions explicit and clarifies where by disagreements could be.

Definitions and diagrams

I performed an ontological examination of “pandemic”. First, I essential to obtain definitions of a pandemic.

Informally, an epidemic is an incidence throughout which there are multiple circumstances of an infectious disorder in organisms, for a constrained length of time, that affects a community of reported organisms residing in some region. A pandemic, as a minimum amount, extends the location the place the bacterial infections choose put.

Subsequent, I drew from current foundational ontologies. This includes generic classes like “object”, “process”, and “quality”. I also made use of area ontologies, which comprise entities specific to a subject domain, like infectious illnesses. Among the other means, I consulted the Infectious Illness Ontology and the Descriptive Ontology for Linguistic and Cognitive Engineering.

Very first, I aligned “pandemic” to a foundational ontology, using a choice diagram to simplify the process. This helped to perform out what kind of issue and generic class “pandemic” is:

(1) Is [pandemic] something that is going on or developing? Indeed (perdurant, i.e., anything that unfolds in time, somewhat than be wholly present).

(2) Are you ready to be current or participate in [a pandemic]? Certainly (function).

(3) Is [a pandemic] atomic, i.e., has no subdivisions and has a definite endpoint? No (accomplishment).

The phrase “accomplishment” may possibly seem peculiar listed here. But, in this context, it can make distinct that a pandemic is a temporal entity with a constrained lifespan and will evolve – that is, cease to be a pandemic and evolve again to epidemic, as indicated in this diagram.