In conversation: Sarah Bauermeister and Chris Orton reflect on our most recent DPUK datathons
21 November 2019
Two datathons in two weeks - autumn has certainly been a busy season for the DPUK datathon team who crossed the country to help a host of new dementia studies get off the ground. If you missed out on the DPUK datathons in UEA and Swansea, don't worry, there are many more in the pipeline!
Now that they’ve had some time to catch their breath, we caught up with DPUK datathon scientific lead, Dr Sarah Bauermeister for a chat with DPUK datathon technical lead, Chris Orton, as they reflected on an intensive two weeks with researchers from across the UK and Europe.
It’s been an intensive few weeks – how do you feel?
SB: All in all, I’m thrilled. I loved seeing such a diversity of new researchers coming together. Our two latest datathons had different characters and I was really pleased to see that overall there was great enthusiasm for the concept.
CO: The common aspects of both datathons were the data, a goal, learning, contribution, discussion and excitement. Those are the elements that really make these events. I’m delighted that we had that in both Swansea and UEA.
What did you love most about the datathons?
SB: The most gratifying and exciting thing for me was seeing such a range of interdisciplinary researchers working together on dementia-focused questions. This is what we need in dementia research now. New approaches to what have been intractable problems for our field.
CO: For me, it was the atmosphere. There was always a great buzz in the room. Everyone was working really hard together and there was a great energy.
Did we have more researchers from industry at these two datathons, and more senior researchers attending?
SB: Yes, we had a real mix of skills and a wide range of experience at the DPUK datathons this autumn. At UEA particularly we had senior researchers working alongside junior colleagues. This meant there was a good stimulating buzz of ideas that could be taken forward.
Like last year, peer learning was a big part of the datathons. People were sharing techniques and learning from each other. It’s in the crossover that the sparks of great new ideas happen.
CO: Yes, the diversity of the attendees also meant that everyone learned from each other, whether methodologically or within the science domain. That’s really important, I think.
Did you get much of a chance to meet the attendees one-to-one?
CO: Yes, the social side of things is a very important part of the datathons. A datathon throws people together – it’s intense work of course – but we also have time to go out together. The social aspect is a part I really enjoy actually.
SB: In three days you also get a chance to discuss research in groups at the datathons too. Most of the three days are informal workshop style, where we could offer one-to-one advice where needed. I value that and I think the attendees did too.
Everyone was working really hard. I’ve had at least three requests for assistance on projects which is brilliant. This is a great outcome for dementia research in general but also for researchers’ careers.
So – would you do it again?
SB: 100% yes – but we need a Christmas break first! In a nutshell, the success of these datathons has been the collaborative, imaginative spirit that instantaneously arises from the moment the team names are announced. Progress in research and understanding starts with interesting ideas. We need more of that to beat dementia.
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