Economic footprint of COVID-19 - keep calm and move on

This text was jointly written by Jingwen Huo & Dabo Guan

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Our paper, Global Supply Chain Effects of COVID-19 Control Measures, has recently been published by Nature Human Behaviour. The study estimates the economic impacts to national and global supply chains of different sets of “lockdown” scenarios between strictness and duration. I would like to share my learning and researching experience as an undergraduate student.  

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, daily epidemic information has been released by the media and via internet. I was grounded in my house without going out for 6 weeks and during that time began to wonder about to what extent the extremely strict lockdown can hurt the economy, and whether this is necessary at all. COVID-19 quickly spread to Europe and North America within a few weeks, and I started to worry about the global impact. At the end of February, Professor Dabo Guan invited me to participate in quantifying global economic footprint analysis of COVID-19. This is great! I was excited that I was making some real impact to the world.  

Due to the strong timeliness, we determined our storyline within a matter of days. After that, the next step was to develop the global disaster footprint accounting model, which may be the biggest challenge I have met. I was just beginning to wonder: develop a model? Wow, isn't that difficult? I'm just a freshman at the beginning of learning. What can I do for that? I was very moved that the research partners explained to me the theoretical framework of the model and how to build it in a very concise way. And, they recommended some relevant literature for me to read. This enabled me catch up with our research without delaying the team's work.  

When we  finished the calculation of preliminary data results, we were faced with a "headache": how to do the drawing? The reason why I said it’s hard is because we had so many deliberations and modifications, plus the multiple revisions of the paper figures, which can be seen from the draft picture below. 

Sketch of some paper figures (see also banner above the post) after discussions while writing the paper (The concept in the upper left is my proposal and was adopted in the final writing).

Finally, it’s time to write the main text, we have previously analyzed more than five special supply chains globally, including China's electronics industry, Jamaica's tourism, and Brazil's oil seeds, for example. And then we compared their linkage of global supply chain and the economic effect and decided to depict in detail China's electronic industry and the German automobile manufacturing industry in the text.  

At first, I was confused about why we had to pick so many supply chains, instead of focusing on only two randomly. And then, I put forward my confusion to Dr. Wang, who explained to me: “we can't choose two supply chains at will, because there is no scientific basis for this approach and it is easy to be questioned by editors and other reviewers,” which is a valuable lesson for me.  

This is my story behind the paper. I think this is a very valuable experience and will be very helpful to my future research life.

Go to the profile of Jingwen Huo

Jingwen Huo

PhD Candidate, Tsinghua University

focus on climate change policy, trade carbon emission reduction policy and sustainable development pathway.

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