The group was created by Prof Magnus Boman and Dr Lisa Brouwers in 2007 to meet the demand for investigations into computer-generated populations of individuals. In particular, investigations into the use of such populations for simulating complex processes, such as epidemic spread in space and time, was prompted by important real-life problems. While the concept of ‘individuals’ normally pertains to people, it could be generalized to denote animals, robots, viruses, or even trees, but processes governing spread are our primary concern.
In general, modeling people and their actions is very difficult, and any claims for adequacy must be carefully scrutinized. When using data on real people, such as demographics, the problem of maintaining the anonymity and personal integrity of each individual is added to the list of problems that need to be addressed. Even handling such databases requires extreme care and special permits for running simulations, because of the ethical dimension. If instead a synthetic population can be generated with the same, or at least very similar, properties as the original database, the synthetic population can replace the original one in simulations and other forms of manipulation.
The SyntPop group is strongly linked to S-GEM, which provides an agora for interdisciplinary research into epidemiological processes, not least through its seminars. Our own seminar series concentrates on the computer and systems science aspects of epidemiology and, as the name implies, synthetic populations in particular.
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