The Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy is now open.  Our office hours are from: 9:00am - 5:00pm, Monday - Friday. Please refer to the COVID-19 Resource Guide for all matters related to the return to campus.  All visitors and vendors must fill out the Columbia University Health Screening Form.  We look forward to seeing you on campus.


Wilmot G. James

Senior Research Scholar
Adjunct Professor, School of Professional Studies; Chair, Center for Pandemic Research


Wilmot James is a Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) at Columbia University and an Honorary Professor of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He conducts research on pandemic response and biosecurity, convenes high-level meetings on planetary threats, leads the Center for Pandemic Research at ISERP and is an Associate Director in the Program in Vaccine Education at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Wilmot co-convenes the Schmidt Futures supported Columbia-Witwatersrand Vaccine Safety and Confidence-Building (VacSafe) Working Group. He serves as a senior consultant in biosecurity to the Washington DC based Nuclear Threat Initiative Bio; and as a consultant to the Africa Center for Disease Control (Africa-CDC) on behalf of the Global Partnership Signature Initiative to Mitigate Biological Threats in Africa. Wilmot was previously a Member of Parliament (South Africa) and opposition spokesperson on health, trade and industry, schooling and higher education. He served on the Board of Trustees for the Ford Foundation between 1996 and 2008. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of Resolve to Save Lives. Wilmot is the author and/or editor of 17 books that include the policy-oriented Vital Signs: Health Security in South Africa (2020) and a co-edited collection of Nelson Mandela’s presidential speeches Nelson Mandela In His Own Words (2003) given to the late President on his 85th birthday.

Fields of Interest:

Biosecurity and Biosafety and Biodefense Policy and Practice. Health Security and Diplomacy. Pandemics and Democracy.


PhD Sociology and African History (University of Wisconsin, Madison). BA Hons Sociology (University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa).

Honors & Awards:

Fullbright award for graduate study at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Honorary Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Honorary Professor, Division of Human Genetics, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa. Gordon Moore Distinguished Visiting Professor of History and Sociology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. Honorary Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa. Senior Fellow (non-residential), Hannah Arendt Centre, Bard College. Genomics Research & Policy Visiting Fellow, Economic and Social Research Council, University of Edinburgh. Visiting Research Scholar, American Bar Foundation, Chicago. Post-Doctoral Fellow, Southern African Research Program, Yale University.


  1. James, W and 9 others, Attitudes to vaccine mandates among late adopters of COVID-19 vaccines in Zimbabwe. Vaccines. 2022; 10 (1090).
  2. James W, Stanberry LR, Severance H, Grodman M, Grodman S and Rubin-Thompson L. Pandemics: Global Health Security. In Dhai A, Ballot D and Veller M, eds. Pandemics and Healthcare: Principles, Processes and Practice. Cape Town: Juta, 2021.
  3. James W. and 3 others, Epidemic/Pandemic Response in Africa: Covid-19 in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. New York: Columbia University and Brenthurst Foundation; 2021.
  4. James, W, and 17 others, The value proposition of the Global Health Security Index. British Medical Journal Global Health. 2020; 5:e003648.
  5. James W, Ed. Vital Signs: Health Security in South Africa: Johannesburg: Brenthurst Foundation. 2020.
  6. James, W, du Plessis JL & G Mills. The CBRN threat environment in South Africa. In James W. Ed. Vital Signs: Health Security in South Africa. Johannesburg: Brenthurst Foundation; 2020.
  7. James, W, Daven J & Kahn M. Investing in health security preparedness. In James W. Ed. Vital Signs; 2020.
  8. James W, and 19 others, Accelerating Action in Global Health Security: Global Biosecurity Dialogue as a Model for Advancing the Global Health Security Agenda. Health Security. 2019; 17(6).
  9. James W, Stanberry LR, Thomson MC. Prioritizing the needs of children in a changing climate. PLOS Medicine. 2018;15(7).

Ongoing Research Projects:

2021-2022 Vaccine Information Network. South Africa and Zimbabwe. Schmidt Futures. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Principal Investigator.
2020-2022 Epidemic/Pandemic Response in Africa: Covid-19 in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Schmidt Futures. Co-Principal Investigator with L. Stanberry, L. White and A. McClelland.
2020-2022 CHAMPS Impact Fund: Hospital Infection Survey - Pan-African Neonatal Care Assessment Survey. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Role: Co-Investigator. 
2020-2022 Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Program in Vaccine Education. Pfizer Inc. Role: Co-Investigator.

A Mapping Survey of Children’s Hospitals in Sub-Saharan Africa. ELMA Philanthropies Role: Co-Investigator with L. Stanberry and P. Larussa.


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