Viruses and Digital Platforms: Bocconi Wins Two ERC Grants
ECONOMICS | POLITICAL SCIENCES |

Viruses and Digital Platforms: Bocconi Wins Two ERC Grants

ALESSIA MELEGARO AND FRANCESCO DECAROLIS HAVE OBTAINED TWO ERC CONSOLIDATOR GRANTS FROM THE EUROPEAN RESEARCH COUNCIL. ONE RESEARCH PROJECT DEALS WITH THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMAN BEHAVIOR, VACCINE HESITANCY AND THE SPREAD OF VIRUSES, AND THE OTHER WITH COMPETITION ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS, MARKING AN EXPANSION OF THE RESEARCH FIELDS IN WHICH EUROPE ACKNOWLEDGES BOCCONI AS A PRIMARY PLAYER

Two research projects on current issues such as the dissemination of viruses and competition in the digital environment have earned Bocconi two ERC Consolidator Grants from the European Research Council, for a total funding of €3.7mln.
 
Alessia Melegaro, Associate Professor of Demography at the Department of Social and Political Sciences and Director of the COVID Crisis Lab, and Francesco Decarolis, Avvocato Giovanni Agnelli Associate Professor in Economics, are among the 327 researchers funded with a Consolidator Grant, the ERC announced today.
 
With these latest two, Bocconi reaches 39 ERC Grants hosted since the start of the European program in 2007.
 
Alessia Melegaro's project, IMMUNE (Modelling the Impact of Human Behaviours on Infections Spread), aims to update the most widespread epidemiological models, taking into account the dynamics of human behavior. The project, presented to the European Research Council before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, focuses on vaccine hesitancy and its public health consequences. “The low vaccine uptake prevents the eradication of diseases such as measles, which could in fact be eradicated,” explains Professor Melegaro. The large amount of data collected in recent months will also allow the research team to study the effects of other forms of behavior variability, such as those concerning the rules of social distancing.
 
The CoDiM (Competition in Digital Markets) project by Francesco Decarolis studies the competitive aspects of digital platforms. As highlighted by the numerous investigations and measures of antitrust authorities around the world, digital markets tend to be very concentrated, since the advantages of the dominant player accumulate thanks to network effects, which make it convenient for consumers to use an already popular platform. “This calls into question the very role of competition,” says Professor Decarolis. “My project aims to evaluate regulatory interventions that take into account the features of these markets and the behavioral aspects that affect the behavior, not always rational, of consumers.”
 
“The ERC funding, allocated at the end of a challenging competitive process, positions Bocconi as an important player in European research in a wide range of disciplinary fields,” says the Rector of the University, Gianmario Verona. “The grant won by Professor Decarolis rewards economic research on antitrust in the digital environment, while the grant won by Professor Melegaro rewards epidemiological research, so central in the fight against COVID-19. The two grants are on top of the ERC Grant recently won by Professor Dirk Hovy, which acknowledges the excellence of our research in computer science. In addition, both projects also investigate behavioral issues using data analysis and machine learning methodologies - two aspects increasingly central in Bocconi's scientific agenda.”
 
The ERC Consolidator Grants are assigned to researchers of any nationality with experience of between seven and twelve years after the completion of their PhD and an outstanding scientific curriculum. For researchers in the previous and subsequent stages of their career, the ERC provides Starting Grants and Advanced Grants, while the Synergy Grants are reserved to groups of scholars ready to join forces to tackle challenging issues. Research funded by the ERC must be conducted in a public or private research organization located in one of the EU Member States or Associated Countries. The funding covers a maximum period of five years and mostly covers the work of researchers and staff employed in the project.

by Fabio Todesco

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