Adapted Figure 1. "Nodes in two jurisdictions do not align with the distances from the initial infection. . . "

The rapid spread of the coronavirus around the world is a grim reminder of the importance of inter-governmental cooperation — and the consequences of trying to go it alone. A new paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and co-authored by SFI External Professor Matthew Jackson found that infection rates from diseases like COVID-19 can be decreased if nations, states, and cities develop proactive policies that allow them to act fast to contain a crisis.

The team,* which also included Arun Chandrasekhar, Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham, and Samuel Thau, compared responses of jurisdictions around the world and found that those that acted only after the disease arrived had infection rates three to ten times those of governments that monitored the spread of infection in neighboring populations and prepared in advance for quarantine. “Just a few lax governments create jurisdictions that repeatedly incubate a disease and substantially worsen the outcome for everyone,” the authors wrote.

These insights into the costs of poor coordination and preparation can be useful in responding to other global problems as well, such as climate change and economic collapse, the authors note.

Read the paper, “Interacting regional policies in containing a disease,” in PNAS (May 11, 2021)


*Arun Chandrasekhar (Stanford), Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham (Yale), Matthew Jackson (Stanford, Santa Fe Institute), and Samuel Thau (Harvard) are co-authors on the paper.