In early 2022, just about two decades just after Covid was declared a pandemic by the Globe Health Corporation, industry experts are mulling a significant query: when is a pandemic “over”?

So, what’s the answer? What standards ought to be used to identify the “end” of Covid’s pandemic stage? These are deceptively uncomplicated concerns and there are no simple responses.

I am a laptop or computer scientist who investigates the advancement of ontologies. In computing, ontologies are a signifies to formally composition understanding of a matter area, with its entities, relations, and constraints, so that a computer system can approach it in a variety of apps and help individuals to be more exact.

Ontologies can find out understanding that is been forgotten till now: in one particular occasion, an ontology recognized two supplemental practical domains in phosphatases (a team of enzymes) and a novel area architecture of a aspect of the enzyme. Ontologies also underlie Google’s Understanding Graph which is guiding all those knowledge panels on the correct-hand aspect of a look for final result.

Making use of ontologies to the queries I posed at the start out is helpful. This technique helps to clarify why it is complicated to specify a slice-off level at which a pandemic can be declared “over”. The procedure entails accumulating definitions and characterizations from domain specialists, like epidemiologists and infectious condition researchers, consulting appropriate research and other ontologies, and investigating the mother nature of what entity “X” is.

“X”, right here, would be the pandemic alone – not a mere shorthand definition, but on the lookout into the homes of that entity. These types of a specific characterization of the “X” will also reveal when an entity is “not an X”. For occasion, if X = property, a assets of properties is that they all have to have a roof if some item does not have a roof, it unquestionably isn’t a home.

With these traits in hand, a precise, formal specification can be formulated, aided by supplemental procedures and resources. From that, the what or when of “X” – the pandemic is more than or it is not – would logically stick to. If it does not, at least it will be doable to make clear why points are not that uncomplicated.

This sort of precision enhances wellness experts’ endeavours, helping people to be a lot more exact and talk more precisely. It forces us to make implicit assumptions express and clarifies exactly where disagreements could be.

Definitions and diagrams

I executed an ontological investigation of “pandemic”. Initially, I wanted to come across definitions of a pandemic.

Informally, an epidemic is an occurrence during which there are various scenarios of an infectious illness in organisms, for a limited duration of time, that influences a neighborhood of claimed organisms residing in some location. A pandemic, as a minimal, extends the area the place the infections take place.

Future, I drew from present foundational ontologies. This consists of generic types like “object”, “process”, and “quality”. I also made use of area ontologies, which comprise entities precise to a subject matter domain, like infectious health conditions. Amid other sources, I consulted the Infectious Ailment Ontology and the Descriptive Ontology for Linguistic and Cognitive Engineering.

Very first, I aligned “pandemic” to a foundational ontology, using a conclusion diagram to simplify the procedure. This helped to do the job out what form of thing and generic category “pandemic” is:

(1) Is [pandemic] anything that is occurring or developing? Of course (perdurant, i.e., something that unfolds in time, rather than be wholly existing).

(2) Are you ready to be present 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 word “accomplishment” may well appear unusual right here. But, in this context, it would make very clear that a pandemic is a temporal entity with a minimal lifespan and will evolve – that is, stop to be a pandemic and evolve back to epidemic, as indicated in this diagram.