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Learning and collaborating: Highlights from Scottish data events

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Research Data Scotland

22 Nov 2023

As part of our work in engaging with Scotland’s data community, Research Data Scotland (RDS) attend a range of events and conferences to raise the profile of our work and hear from others in the data community. We caught up with colleagues to find out what they’ve learnt from recent events and how their insights will help develop RDS’s work.

Scotland’s Health Research and Innovation Conference (Glasgow, 31 October)

Duncan Buchanan, Head of Health Data Transformation, attended Scotland’s Health Research and Innovation Conference in October, which was hosted jointly by the Chief Scientist’s Office and NHS Research Scotland. In collaboration with colleagues at Public Health Scotland, Duncan contributed an e-poster about the RDS Researcher Access Service, an upcoming service that will simplify and speed up access to secure data for research. This set out the learning during the pandemic behind the design of the service, the work to date and ongoing developments.  The format also allowed various additional resources to be added such as video demonstrations and website links. Discover the e-poster online.

What were some of the key themes from the conference, and what did you find most interesting?

Duncan Buchanan: “The conference was a celebration of 50 years of the Chief Scientist’s Office of the Scottish Government, and several of the past holders of the Chief Scientist role were present. More broadly, there were prominent themes on Data and AI as well as public engagement and participation, both of which are central to the mission of RDS.

Screenshot of an e-poster with the title 'Accessing Health Data for Research: A new service designed for growth'

“The breadth of work presented at the conference highlighted Scotland’s leading role in healthcare innovation, and much of this was underpinned by the routine health data collected across the NHS.” 

Scottish Black Talent Summit (Edinburgh, 30-31 October)

Loretta Perry, RDS HR and Operations Project Manager, attended the second annual Scottish Black Talent Summit and Hiring Fair in October. The event brings together government, HR leaders, and other influential stakeholders to explore successful strategies, best practice and new developments in recruiting from untapped talent pools.

What did you find most interesting and useful about the event? 

Loretta Perry: “Equality, diversity and inclusion are core to RDS’s philosophy and purpose and so we were extremely excited to sponsor this event and explore opportunities to help bridge the gap of underrepresented communities in the data world. 

“During our time at the summit, we had the privilege to meet countless wonderful and talented people, many of which have or are facing undeserving hardships within the Scottish job market. The unwavering comradery, determination and resilience we witnessed was deeply moving and motivational. It’s an experience we’ve taken back to our own organisation to help us further explore opportunities where RDS can make a positive impact for Black talent in the Scottish job market and raise awareness with others of the importance of supporting underrepresented talent in our communities."

Screenshot of a LinkedIn post from Loretta Perry

Data Summit (Edinburgh, 2-3 November) 

Hosted by Edinburgh-based data innovation organisation The Data Lab, Data Summit celebrates the most innovative and groundbreaking uses of data and AI and Scotland’s leading role in the field. Eleanor Mitchell, Senior Data Analyst, attended the event. 

What were some of the key themes and standout discussions from the conference? 

Eleanor Mitchell: “The theme of the event was the future of data and AI and how they will shape the human experience. This was particularly relevant in the panel moderated by RDS Chief Data Officer, Nora Cooke O’Dowd, ‘The Future of AI in Healthcare’. The unintended consequences of the use of AI were highlighted by Jackie Caldwell from Public Health Scotland, who reflected that there is a danger of burning out the NHS’s top consultants as the ‘easier’ cases are filtered out by the use of AI and they only ever see the complex cases.

Screenshot of an X (Twitter) post by The Data Lab

“My conversation with fellow audience members after the panel acknowledged that it is great that AI is being used to speed up the process in some areas, but until the rest of the bottlenecks in the current healthcare system are improved, this may have less impact than we might hope. I’m looking forward to further conversations like this as we develop RDS’s services and consider the role of AI in the research data landscape holistically.”

UK Prevention Research 2023 conference (Edinburgh, 14-15 November) 

The UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) was established to increase investment in research that could prevent non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Jo Bruce, Technical Data Manager for RDS, attended the UK Prevention Research conference to learn more about prevention research including barriers to access, availability, and quality. 

How does the UKPRP’s work align with RDS’s mission? 

Jo Bruce: “I think it is always helpful to root our day-to-day activities to the wider context so that we can ensure our operating model and transformation activities are fit for purpose and will be valuable to the research community.

Screenshot of an X (Twitter) post from Layla Robinson about UK PRP Conference

“Non-communicable diseases have common ‘upstream’ determinants such as employment, education, welfare, transport, health and social care. The services supporting these areas generate a wealth of data, and it is this data that RDS are on a mission to enable timely and cost-effective access to for research. 

“From a personal perspective, hearing about the tangible public benefit that data leads to serves as a great motivator for me in my role. It’s rewarding to see the real-world impact of the sort of research that RDS is working to enable.”

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