Biostatistics and SARS-CoV-2: research, policymaking, and communication

September 21, 2021

Learn on the central role of Biostatistics in the COVID-19 Pandemia, and the multidisciplinary nature of pandemic response


During the webinar, the participant:

  • were exposed in an intuitive and non-technical way to statistical and epidemiological tools and technique useful in monitoring and managing the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Got insight into the multidisciplinary nature of pandemic response;
  • Got insight in the interplay between scientists, policy makers, media, and the public opinion;
  • Became familiar with important lessons learned for the future, starting from the current pandemic, and occasionally from past pandemics, such as the Spanish Flu.



Biostatistics and SARS-CoV-2

Prof. Geert Molenberghs: I-BioStat, Universiteit Hasselt & KU Leuven, Belgium

Prof. Geert Molenberghs is Professor of Biostatistics at the Universiteit Hasselt and KU Leuven in Belgium. Dr. Molenberghs published methodological work on surrogate markers in clinical trials, categorical data, longitudinal data analysis, and on the analysis of non-response in clinical and epidemiological studies. He is founding director of the Center for Statistics at Hasselt University and currently the director of the Interuniversity Institute for Biostatistics statistical Bioinformatics, I-BioStat, a joint initiative of the Hasselt and Leuven universities. He is member of the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine. Molenberghs published over 820 publications and contributed to over 200 research projects and service contracts. Molenberghs currently advises the Belgian government based on statistical analysis of the impact of COVID-19 control measures, occurrence of COVID-19 in different statistical and professional sectors and on COVID-19 related excess mortality.


The COVID-19 pandemic, induced by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is literally a rare event in the course of history. We need to go back to 1918 for an even worse pandemic, the Spanish Flu, or H1N1, although we also had the tuberculosis pandemic in the interbellum; there was the Russian flu in 1890 (maybe also a coronavirus and not influenza), and the plague that literally haunted the world for several centuries.

When there are no antiviral means to speak of, and in the absence of vaccines, time-honored non-pharmaceutical interventions enter stage. Apart from controlling the epidemic, for better or for worse, they generate side effects, for society, its well-being, and for the economy. Based on data and imperfect evidence, the biostatistician contributes to understanding what has happened and is happening, is able to separate signal from noise in predictions for the short- and mid-term future.

Biostatisticians can, and actually should play a role in the response to the COVID-19 crisis, ranging from mathematical and statistical modeling, over day-to-day monitoring, to scientific and government committee work and policy making. We place the mathematical and statistical work done against the background of its use towards policy making, public communication, and outreach in real time. Attention is given to the post-pandemic era, in terms of pandemic preparedness.


Presentation Webinar: Biostatistics and SARS-CoV-2: research, policymaking, and communication

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