Virtual Study Groups

Virtual Study Groups

One potential way forward from the mathematical support and/or webinars is to tackle problems via a virtual study group. Study Groups with Industry provide a forum for industrial scientists to work alongside academic mathematicians on problems of direct industrial relevance. They are an internationally recognised method of technology and knowledge exchange between academic mathematicians and industry

V-KEMS has explored the feasibility of this and trialled a few approaches during April 2020 - in particular, a pilot virtual study group took place from 20th-23rd April 2020

These Virtual Study Groups are hosted by both ICMS and the Newton Gateway to Mathematics. 

In September 2020, Professor Rebecca Hoyle spoke to the Isaac Newton Institute about V-KEMS Virtual Study Groups. 

An operations manual for running a VSG 010620.pdf

An Operations Manual for Running a Virtual Study Group has been put together which highlights some key points to consider when planning such events. If you would like to know more or have any questions please contact the Newton Gateway

21st - 23rd May 2024 - The Future of the High Street Virtual Study Group

Many town centre high streets have been in decline for decades leaving them with boarded-up shops, the absence of local traders, and few shoppers due to their migration to out-of-town shopping malls. In this online study group,  we will focus on the application of mathematical sciences to explore how regeneration could be catalysed. It is being developed by Innovate UK Business Connect and funded by the KE HUB. 

Register here:


16th - 18th January 2024 - Food Security Virtual Study Group

This study group brought mathematical scientists and other disciplines together to solve challenges of food insecurity and to promote sustainable practices.  Food security presents the challenge of ensuring that everyone in the world has, at all times, physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food. This virtual study group focused on investigating causes of food insecurity, a global issue in which agriculture, supply chains and climate change play a key role. It was developed by the Newton Gateway to Mathematics and funded by the KE HUB.

Since the event, participants have collaborated to develop a working paper.

20th - 22nd November 2023 - Maths For Justice Virtual Study Group

This study group used mathematical, statistical, and machine learning tools to examine issues related to the justice system and to establish and strengthen links between the mathematics and the justice communities. It was developed by the Institute for Mathematical Innovation (IMI)  at the University of Bath and funded by the KE HUB and ICMS. 

A report about the challenges and solutions that were presented is now available

29th June - 1st July 2022 - Environmental Risk Post COVID-19 Virtual Study Group

This study group focused on environmental problems, looking both at the impact of COVID-19, issues of environmental recovery post COVID-19, and also the detection of COVID-19 in the environment.

18th - 20th May 2022 - The Public Perception of Science – Virtual Study Group

This three-day virtual study group explored the challenges related to scientific misinformation/miscommunication in the media and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on scientists.

The summary slides for each challenge area can be found here: 

Since the event, participants have collaborated to develop a working paper.

29th - 31st March 2022 - Recovery from the Pandemic: Transport Logistics – Virtual Study Group

This three-day virtual study group aims to bring mathematical scientists and other disciplines together to solve end user defined challenges with the aim of mitigating the impact of COVID-19, climate change and the change of regulations on the shipping and supply chain network.

Since the event, participants have collaborated to develop a working paper.

9th, 10th, 11th March 2022 - Virtual Study Group hosted by ICMS - Communities for an Ageing Society

This three-day hybrid study group considered post-pandemic challenges for an ageing society.

The older population has been worst hit by the health impacts of the pandemic. The social distancing measures introduced at a societal level led to shielding/isolation, many social activities have yet to restart, whilst Care Homes faced well documented challenges. This VSG considered what we can learn from these documented challenges and how we can design the provision of healthcare services in the future to support an ageing society.

Since the event, participants have collaborated to develop a working paper

12th - 14th January 2022 - Virtual Study Group - Post Covid-19 Recovery - Communities of the Future

This three-day hybrid study group explored some challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic faced by local authorities. 

This study group focused on two challenges. Challenge 1: Supporting local authorities, landlords and tenants in preventing homelessness post Covid-19 and Challenge 2: Supporting local authorities, businesses and high-streets post Covid-19.

Since the event, participants have collaborated to develop a working paper.

8th - 9th November 2021 - Modelling Energy Systems and Resilience Virtual Study Group

In this two-day virtual study group problems focused on industrial challenges in energy systems arising from extreme weather events were presented. These included Wave Energy Converter Integration with Wind Farms, Flexibility for Future Electric Heating and Energy supply solutions during extreme weather events.

12th - 14th October 2021 - Recovery from the Pandemic: Hospitality & LeisureVirtual Study Group

This three-day virtual study group brought mathematical scientists and other disciplines together to solve challenges faced by the hospitality and leisure sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The UK leisure industry as a whole has met some unprecedented challenges over the course of the pandemic, and will continue to do so as the nation recovers. We are interested in using mathematics as a tool to help solve the particular challenges hotels, restaurants and leisure facilities, such as cinemas, gyms and museums, are facing as a result of the pandemic.

Unlike in previous study groups where the main focus was on modelling the spread of the infection, the theme of this event was about recovery from the pandemic with more of a focus on dealing with the operational difficulties and economic implications which have arisen. This event brought mathematical scientists and other disciplines together to solve end user defined challenges with the aim of mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality and leisure sector. 

Since the event, participants have collaborated to develop a working paper and the AIRBODS Researchers have shared a blog post about their participation. Abbie Marsh, a Summer Research Intern at University of Bath, was granted a Santander Scholarship to follow up the study group work with Shakespeare's Globe and compiled this poster report with the findings.

13th - 15th July 2021 - Covid-19 Safety in Large Events - Virtual Study Group

Since April 2021, VKEMS  has delivered a series of Virtual Study Groups considering minimising risk / impact of COVID-19 in a range of scenarios (including train travel, opening up higher education and the impact on cardiovascular waiting lists).

We have now been tasked by RAMP Continuity Network (a UKRI funded project) to undertake a series of Virtual Study Groups on their behalf.

The first Virtual Study Group had the theme of COVID Safety in Large Events. This was a three day event, starting on Tuesday 13th July that brought mathematical scientists and other disciplines together to solve end user defined challenges. 

The study group covered the spectrum of large events from indoor to outdoor, ticketed to un-ticketed, dynamic to static. The event was developed by V-KEMS partners with delivery by ICMS.  Since the event, participants have collaborated to develop a working paper. More information can also be seen in both this article and this article

2nd - 4th February 2021 - Modelling Solutions to the Impact of COVID-19 on Cardiovascular Waiting Lists – Virtual Study Group

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men in the UK and second most for women. During the first lockdown from March 2020, elective cardiac procedures and many outpatient consultations were postponed and a substantial number of appointments have not yet been rescheduled. In addition, those who were suffering from heart conditions did not present to their GP or hospital.

It would be helpful to form a predictive model of the outcome of different strategies for recovery of the backlog in cardiac procedures and outpatient consultations, noting that a number of competing elements are at play including incident cases, prevalent cases, delayed cases, abandonment from changes in disease and deaths, as well as the capacity and capability of NHS services to respond. 

A podcast about the event is available and a working paper has since been published. A Case Study is also now available. On 17th June 2022 - "Aortic stenosis post-COVID-19: a mathematical model on waiting lists and mortality" was published in BMJ Open.  

11th - 13th January 2021 - Reducing the Risk of Covid-19 Transmission on Trains.

Amid the Covid-19 outbreak, the rail industry is looking to develop methods that can quantify the risk of transmission on trains, for both passengers and staff. Interested researchers were invited to join the three day study group to explore how mathematical sciences could help solve the challenge. 

This Study Group aimed to convene researchers, and industry and policy stakeholders to provide further insight into the challenge through a wide variety of mathematical approaches.

The Study Group considered three scales:

16th - 18th December 2020 - Virtual Industry Study Group  - Modelling of Heterogeneous Systems.

5th - 6th October 2020 - Mathematical Modelling and COVID-19: How can modelling inform a response to the current COVID-19 resurgence?

This workshop brought together people working on modelling the COVID-19 epidemic in the UK to discuss how modelling has and continues to inform policy decision making around this epidemic. It showcased ongoing modelling efforts to evaluate different non-pharmaceutical interventions as well as potential vaccination strategies from the leading modelling groups in the UK, drawing on knowledge from published and in the process of publication work. 

7th September - 8th September 2020 - Agrifood Data Study Group: Evaluating the UK’s resilience to supply chain shocks.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had many negative effects on UK society and the economy. In recent weeks we have seen supermarket shortages and reduced offerings. As the UK is not self-sufficient in food production (for example only 16% of fruit and 52% vegetables and salad are grown in the UK), disruption to the logistics infrastructure could have serious knock-on effects for the UK. The often-complex network and interaction of growers, manufacturers, retailers and freight organisations mean that the current crisis is putting a strain on each of these sectors and the infrastructure which support it.

The mathematical sciences have a role in providing descriptions of resource flows, and tools which can assess vulnerabilities and model possible mitigation strategies. An initial webinar on the role of mathematical sciences in the agri-food supply chain sector was held on the 28th April 2020. This study group will take place over two sessions. The first session (7th – 8th September) aimed to assess the resilience of the UK food networks

29th June –1st July 2020 - Feeding Vulnerable People Virtual Study Group took place.

This study group looked at how the mathematical sciences can provide support in a) forecasting demand for surplus food products over the coming months and b) incentivising relationships with producers to ensure FareShare is well supported by the food supply chain.

15th -17th June 2020 - Unlocking Higher Education Spaces

This three day virtual study group aimed to try to help unlock higher education in the UK following the lockdown. The challenge of opening universities back to closer to normal operation can be seen as a complex, multi-level problem where challenges exist on a building level, a campus level, and a community level.  A briefing document was made available before the event and a working paper has subsequently been published which highlights the discussions and initial findings. 

Nick Holliman, Professor of Visualization at Newcastle University has since produced some slides that highlight the discussions that took place and the models that were used during the study group. 

29th - 30th April 2020 - Guiding Principles for Unlocking the Workforce - What Can Mathematics Tell Us? 

During this 2 day study group, mathematicians considered "principles" for how to modify the operation of an individual workplace in order to reduce viral transmission. 

The meeting brought together online a group of over fifty participants, all normally based in the UK. Most were academic mathematical scientists, from a range of specialities. Academics from data science, economics, epidemiology, public health, and behavioural science also took part. 

A working paper was subsequently published. The Benefits of Peer Transparency in Safe Workplace Operation Post Pandemic Lockdown was submitted in early July 2020.  

Assessing Risk in the Retail Environment during the COVID-19 pandemic was published in Royal Society Open Science in May 2021. 

20th - 23rd April 2020 - Industrial Maths Virtual Study Group Pilot

2 industrial challenges were presented by Zenotech and Scott Bader and over 4 days, study group participants worked on potential solutions which were presented at lunchtime on the final day.