History of SMTPB

For decades, mathematical modeling and theory-based research have been central to population biology, producing major contributions to the sciences of demography, ecology, epidemiology, evolution, and genetics. Scientists focused on mathematical and theoretical approaches have long sought community with one another, both within the subfields of population biology and across subfields that share mathematical approaches in common.

Two events catalyzed the formation of SMTPB in 2023. First, from 2018 to early 2020, more than 100 scientists contributed to celebrating theory-based research, serving as authors, reviewers, and editors for a special issue of Theoretical Population Biology recognizing the journal’s 50th anniversary. This effort brought to light many of the achievements of the modeling & theory community in advancing the sciences of demography, ecology, epidemiology, evolution, and genetics through mathematical modeling and theoretical research. It also highlighted the professional identity that many researchers share as modelers and theorists.

Second, as the TPB anniversary issue went to press in early 2020, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic was accompanied by great effort of mathematical modelers to provide urgent understanding and advice regarding the dynamics of a new instance of classic population processes studied by our scientific field: the ecology and evolution of an infectious pathogen as it spreads among hosts. The throughline between decades of abstract mathematical research on models of population phenomena and the rapid ability to respond with models of real-time dynamics of the ecology and evolution of a new global pathogen was evident within and beyond the community of theory researchers — as was the significant societal value of the branch of science focused on mathematical models of populations.  

With the long-term contributions of the field and their applications in view, conversations among Noah Rosenberg, Sally Otto, and John Wakeley in 2021 led to the idea to enhance the modeling & theory community by formation of a professional society. A founding committee was established, also including Mark Broom, Emilia Huerta-Sanchez, Ailene MacPherson, and Maria Servedio. Members of the founding committee received enthusiastic encouragement from many community members throughout 2022, leading to the formation of SMTPB as an independent 501(c)3 organization in 2023.

Concurrent with the founding of SMTPB, the founding committee has organized a Hybrid Thematic Program at the Banff International Research Station for January to May of 2024, with goals of communicating the science of the field, strengthening the community of theory researchers, and developing plans for the future of SMTPB.

The Society for Modeling and Theory in Population Biology is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

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