Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu, Travel, and Talk at University of California Davis

Today, the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland raised the alert level of the increasing swine flu outbreak one notch to just one level below a pandemic. Tomorrow I was scheduled to fly through Las Vegas to Sacramento, California, where I was to give a talk May 1, 2009 at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California Davis. The announcement for my talk has been posted in this speaker series. I was so looking forward to seeing colleagues there, including Professor Patricia L. Mokhtarian and Professor Yueyue Fan, who invited me to speak. Also, one of our doctoral students at UMass Amherst, Deanna Kennedy, whose family is living in the Davis area was planning on coming to my talk. Professor Mokhtarian and I, along with Professor June Dong, whom I have written about on this blog, had a multi-year National Science Foundation grant on centralized versus decentralized decision-making on complex networks. It was a fantastic project and collaboration, which generated numerous papers as well several books, including the book, "Supernetworks: Decision-Making for the Information Age," co-authored with June Dong.

However, I was advised that, given the increasing numbers of swine flu cases in California, New York, with cases identified even in Nevada and now in eastern Massachusetts, not to fly. There have been several cases in the Sacramento area and a school there has been closed. The staff at the Sacramento airport has been disinfecting certain areas twice an hour -- a thought, somehow, that did not give me much reassurance. This state of events came on so suddenly at a time when one would think the usual flu season is over and done with -- but this is not a usual flu and, presently, there is no vaccine for it.

What can one do in such a situation? Tomorrow we will be testing the videoconferencing equipment at the Isenberg School of Management and I will be working with the information technology counterparts at UC Davis to check out what the streaming will look like on their side. The talk is scheduled for Friday, 1:30PM California time, which corresponds to 4:30PM Eastern Standard time.

This will be an interesting/novel experience. I love to interact with an audience and we will have to do the best that we can. Ironically or, propitiously, I will be talking about supply chain vulnerabilities and synergies and will try to also bring the reality of the swine flu crisis into the conversations. Our (Anna Nagurney's and Qiang "Patrick" Qiang's) new book, "Fragile Networks: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Synergies in a World of Uncertainty," which is being published by Wiley will be out in a few weeks and the topic could not be more timely.