Section: Scientific Foundations
Many dynamical questions addressed by Systems Theory are precisely what biologist are asking. One fundamental problem is the problem of equilibria and their stability. To quote J.A. Jacquez
A major project in deterministic modeling of heterogeneous populations is to find conditions for local and global stability and to work out the relations among these stability conditions, the threshold for epidemic take-off, and endemicity, and the basic reproduction number
The basic reproduction number is an important quantity in the study in epidemics. It is defined as the average number of secondary infections produced when one infected individual is introduced into a host population where everyone is susceptible. The basic reproduction number is often considered as the threshold quantity that determines when an infection can invade and persist in a new host population. To the problem of stability is related the problem of robustness, a concept from control theory. In other words how near is the system to an unstable one ? Robustness is also in relation with uncertainty of the systems. This is a key point in epidemiological and immunological systems, since there are many sources of uncertainties in these models. The model is uncertain (parameters, functions, structure in some cases), the inputs also are uncertain and the outputs highly variable. That robustness is a fundamental issue and can be seen by means of an example : if policies in public health are to be taken from modeling, they must be based on robust reasons!