Wellcome and the ODI: data science challenge

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Funded by the Wellcome’s Data for Science and Health priority area, the ODI is undertaking a scoping project to design a series of data science challenge prizes, to be run over a period of five years, in the field of health.

We are looking across the UK, sub-Saharan Africa and India to identify pressing health issues which can be meaningfully addressed with data science using existing data.

The challenge prizes themselves will aim to:

  • equip and motivate data scientists to innovate with health data for public good in collaboration with health practitioners and patients
  • engage the public and patients groups to build trust, understanding and participation in health data innovation
  • read more in our blogpost, Enabling AI and data technologies in health: data challenge prizes

Why is data in health important?

Artificial intelligence (AI) and data technologies are transforming research and healthcare. Wellcome and the ODI want to make sure everyone benefits from health data innovation.

But there are barriers to achieving this. There are too few data scientists working with health data for public good; trust in the use of data for health innovation is fragile; and access to health data is hard. These can be significant barriers to the development of ethical, equitable technologies for healthcare.

One way to address some of these barriers is by motivating a wide pool of innovators to work together on a specific problem and create new solutions through data challenge prizes. This not only drives forward technological capacity in that field, it builds networks between communities of experts. In addition, by putting meaningful uses of data in ways that help people and communities at the heart of the challenge, they can help develop broader data infrastructure in purposeful ways.

Our approach

Through extensive engagement with clinicians, researchers, data experts, patient groups and and data scientists, ODI has been working to identify a short list of key health topics which could be tackled with data science. Our longlist of challenges included:

  • Predicting risk for multi-morbidities
  • Impact of air pollution on children’s environmental health
  • Diagnosis of neurodegenerative non communicable diseases
  • Generic drug repurposing
  • Access to services in rural areas in order to support better maternal early child health

Selected topics

The shortlisted topics are:

  • Addressing depression and anxiety for young people in the UK
  • Improving snakebite prediction in India
  • Remote sensing for public health in Rwanda, Kenya and Nigeria
  • Drug resistant infections in Uganda, Malawi and Kenya

We are now undertaking in depth research into each of these topics to identify the best challenge prize models to deliver impactful innovations. This includes an evaluation of the data landscape, the legal and regulatory context, the current state of scientific understanding in the field, identifying potential participants and what would motivate them to take part.

These recommendations will be delivered to Wellcome by June 2020.