To achieve complete polio eradication, the live oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) currently used must be phased out after the end of wild poliovirus transmission. However, poorly understood threats may arise when OPV use is stopped. To counter these threats, better models than those currently available are needed. Two articles recently published in BMC Medicine address these issues. Mercer et al. (BMC Med 15:180, 2017) developed a statistical model analysis of polio case data and characteristics of cases occurring in several districts in Pakistan to inform resource allocation decisions. Nevertheless, despite having the potential to accelerate the elimination of polio cases, their analyses are unlikely to advance our understanding OPV cessation threats. McCarthy et al. (BMC Med 15:175, 2017) explored one such threat, namely the emergence and transmission of serotype 2 circulating vaccine derived poliovirus (cVDPV2) after OPV2 cessation, and found that the risk of persistent spread of cVDPV2 to new areas increases rapidly 1-5 years after OPV2 cessation. Thus, recently developed models and analysis methods have the potential to guide the required steps to surpass these threats. 'Big data' scientists could help with this; however, datasets covering all eradication efforts should be made readily available.Please see related articles: https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-017-0937-y and https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-017-0941-2 .