Special Issue "Life in the Time of a Pandemic: Social, Economic, Health and Environmental Impacts of COVID-19—Systems Approach Study"

A special issue of Systems (ISSN 2079-8954).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Oz Sahin
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Engineering & Built Environment/Cities Research Institute (CRI)/Griffith Climate Change Response Program, Griffith University, Queensland 4222, Australia
Interests: systems thinking and system dynamics; climate change risk assessment; water, energy and climate nexus; decision support systems; integrated participatory modelling; modelling of socioeconomic/ecological systems
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Russell Richards
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
International Business, UQ School of Business, University of Queensland, Australia.
Griffith Centre for Coastal Management (Adjunct), Griffith University, Queensland, Australia.
Interests: systems thinking and system dynamics; coastal science; process-based modelling of socioecological systems; decision support systems; apps in research
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

As of mid-March 2020, the confirmed cases of COVID-19, also known colloquially as ‘coronavirus’, had surpassed 400,000, and 19,500 recorded deaths had been recorded across the globe. In many countries, the number of identified cases as well as the number of deaths are increasing an exponential rate. Life around the world is changing drastically as COVID-19 interferes with all aspects of life.

The role of governments around the world is aimed at containing and reducing the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19; however, their respective responses have not been consistent. Aggressive measures imposed by some governments have resulted in ‘complete lockdown’ that has disrupted all facets of life and poses massive health, social, and financial impacts. Other countries, however, are taking a more ‘wait and see’ approach in an attempt to maintain ‘business as usual’.

COVID-19 has forced governments to impose new rules and restrictions affecting our safety and liberty. People around the world have begun distancing themselves (social distancing) from their friends and families and avoiding public places (self-isolation). The movement restrictions have already affected 1.5 billion people around the world, and this number is likely to increase as countries progressively introduce stricter responses to the virus. Prolonged lockdowns without certainty about their duration coupled with the loss of income and social cohesion are likely to cause anxiety and stress that could lead to serious mental health problems.

As the confirmed cases and the death toll in many countries continue to rise, the pandemic is also impacting many industries due to reduced demand and supply shortages, exacerbated by the heavy reliance on global supply chains and the panic buying that has been observed in many communities, adding to greater uncertainty over the global economy. The economic downturn could cost millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in lost GDP globally. People working in service industries, such as restaurants, retail, and tourism, are particularly vulnerable to the global shutdown of international and national borders and self-isolation that is unfolding. A sharp rise in job loss has the potential to trigger a major crash in the property market, resulting in a housing crisis.

Collectively, these challenges reflect a super wicked problem that places immense pressure on economies and societies and requires the strategic management of health systems to avoid them being overwhelmed—this has been linked to the public mantra of ‘flattening the curve’, which acknowledges that while the pandemic cannot be stopped, its impact can be regulated so that the number of cases at any given time is not beyond the capacity of the health system. There is also awareness that this super wicked problem is characterised by nonlinear behaviour (i.e., the prevalence of the term ‘exponential growth’ and ‘doubling time’ in the media) and delays (i.e., the prevalence of discussion regarding the implications of acting now or later; the flattening of the curve).

Simulation modelling using systems thinking/system dynamics is a framework that can be used as a lens for understanding and providing informed knowledge on COVID-19. It is a framework that naturally facilitates the understanding/exploring of complex problems, of searching and finding the best option(s) from all practical solutions where time dynamics are essential.

The SI editors invite submission of papers that provide research insights into this super wicked problem and case studies exploring the interactions between social, economic, environmental, and health factors through the use of a systems approach. We welcome papers from a wide range of topics including impacts of COVID-19 on socioeconomic systems; identification and analysis of high-leverage strategies for preventing COVID-19; effective control strategies of the COVID-19 by considering social, economic, and environmental factors; and papers that contribute to the discourse and understanding the dynamics of the super wicked problem that is COVID-19.

Dr. Oz Sahin
Dr. Russell Richards
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Systems is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Systems models for COVID-19
  • System dynamics modelling for COVID-19
  • Decision support tools for COVID-19
  • Climate change adaptation planning for water systems
  • Systems methods and tools for understanding COVID-19 impacts
  • The resilience of communities/nations in the face of COVID-19 pandemic

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Cognitive Network Science Reconstructs How Experts, News Outlets and Social Media Perceived the COVID-19 Pandemic
Systems 2020, 8(4), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems8040038 - 29 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 713
Abstract
This work uses cognitive network science to reconstruct how experts, influential news outlets and social media perceived and reported the news “COVID-19 is a pandemic”. In an exploratory corpus of 1 public speech, 10 influential news media articles on the same news and [...] Read more.
This work uses cognitive network science to reconstruct how experts, influential news outlets and social media perceived and reported the news “COVID-19 is a pandemic”. In an exploratory corpus of 1 public speech, 10 influential news media articles on the same news and 37,500 trending tweets, the same pandemic declaration elicited a wide spectrum of perceptions retrieved by automatic language processing. While the WHO adopted a narrative strategy of mitigating the pandemic by raising public concern, some news media promoted fear for economic repercussions, while others channelled trust in contagion containment through semantic associations with science. In Italy, the first country to adopt a nationwide lockdown, social discourse perceived the pandemic with anger and fear, emotions of grief elaboration, but also with trust, a useful mechanism for coping with threats. Whereas news mostly elicited individual emotions, social media promoted much richer perceptions, where negative and positive emotional states coexisted, and where trust mainly originated from politics-related jargon rather than from science. This indicates that social media linked the pandemics to institutions and their intervention policies. Since both trust and fear strongly influence people’s risk-averse behaviour and mental/physical wellbeing, identifying evidence for these emotions is key under a global health crisis. Cognitive network science opens the way to unveiling the emotional framings of massively read news in automatic ways, with relevance for better understanding how information was framed and perceived by large audiences. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Mathematical Modeling and Simulation of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Systems 2020, 8(3), 24; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems8030024 - 13 Jul 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1938
Abstract
The current pandemic is a great challenge for several research areas. In addition to virology research, mathematical models and simulations can be a valuable contribution to the understanding of the dynamics of the pandemic and can give recommendations to physicians and politicians. Based [...] Read more.
The current pandemic is a great challenge for several research areas. In addition to virology research, mathematical models and simulations can be a valuable contribution to the understanding of the dynamics of the pandemic and can give recommendations to physicians and politicians. Based on actual data of people infected with COVID-19 from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), input parameters of mathematical models will be determined and applied. These parameters will be estimated for the UK, Italy, Spain, and Germany and used in an S I R -type model. As a basis for the model’s calibration, the initial exponential growth phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in the named countries is used. Strategies for the commencing and ending of social and economic shutdown measures are discussed. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Effectiveness of the Early Response to COVID-19: Data Analysis and Modelling
Systems 2020, 8(2), 21; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems8020021 - 18 Jun 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2111
Abstract
Governments around the world have introduced a number of stringent policies to try to contain COVID-19 outbreaks, but the relative importance of such measures, in comparison to the community response to these restrictions, the amount of testing conducted, and the interconnections between them, [...] Read more.
Governments around the world have introduced a number of stringent policies to try to contain COVID-19 outbreaks, but the relative importance of such measures, in comparison to the community response to these restrictions, the amount of testing conducted, and the interconnections between them, is not well understood yet. In this study, data were collected from numerous online sources, pre-processed and analysed, and a number of Bayesian Network models were developed, in an attempt to unpack such complexity. Results show that early, high-volume testing was the most crucial factor in successfully monitoring and controlling the outbreaks; when testing was low, early government and community responses were found to be both critical in predicting how rapidly cases and deaths grew in the first weeks of the outbreak. Results also highlight that in countries with low early test numbers, the undiagnosed cases could have been up to five times higher than the officially diagnosed cases. The conducted analysis and developed models can be refined in the future with more data and variables, to understand/model potential second waves of contagions. Full article
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Open AccessCommunication
Developing a Preliminary Causal Loop Diagram for Understanding the Wicked Complexity of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Systems 2020, 8(2), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems8020020 - 18 Jun 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 17918
Abstract
COVID-19 is a wicked problem for policy makers internationally as the complexity of the pandemic transcends health, environment, social and economic boundaries. Many countries are focusing on two key responses, namely virus containment and financial measures, but fail to recognise other aspects. The [...] Read more.
COVID-19 is a wicked problem for policy makers internationally as the complexity of the pandemic transcends health, environment, social and economic boundaries. Many countries are focusing on two key responses, namely virus containment and financial measures, but fail to recognise other aspects. The systems approach, however, enables policy makers to design the most effective strategies and reduce the unintended consequences. To achieve fundamental change, it is imperative to firstly identify the “right” interventions (leverage points) and implement additional measures to reduce negative consequences. To do so, a preliminary causal loop diagram of the COVID-19 pandemic was designed to explore its influence on socio-economic systems. In order to transcend the “wait and see” approach, and create an adaptive and resilient system, governments need to consider “deep” leverage points that can be realistically maintained over the long-term and cause a fundamental change, rather than focusing on “shallow” leverage points that are relatively easy to implement but do not result in significant systemic change. Full article
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