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68 researchers from a whole range of backgrounds came together in the latest two DPUK datathons. This diversity – in attendees, skills and research backgrounds – is the aspect that datathoners consistently report they like the most.

Attendees hear from cohort experts at the DPUK datathon in Swansea

Participants loved meeting and working with researchers from different disciplines, and the success of bringing together data scientists with health experts was evident right from the start.

Collaborative spirit

This month saw researchers from 29 different institutions join DPUK datathons at UEA and Swansea. They represented the fields of computer science, health, medical, physics, finance, sociology and the civil service. Some were PIs, others just starting out in their research career. It proved to be a powerful mix that inspired many new ideas for dementia research in the DPUK Data Portal.

In a nutshell, the essence of these datathons has been the collaborative spirit that instantaneously arises in the room the minute the team names are announced. The participants are excited by the opportunities that they have working together. I’m so thrilled we’re able to facilitate that. - Dr Sarah Bauermeister, Senior Researcher and Data Manager, DPUK

data in a safe and secure environment

Once set up in teams, participants got to down to work with DPUK cohort datasets in the Data Portal. They loved the freedom of working with the data in a secure environment, where data cannot be lost. The Data Portal analysis environment is an remote virtual desktop where data cannot be downloaded. It is complete with a range of software packages, including STATA, R and Python. Participants were able to develop their own study proposal and methods according to their interests, skills and project ideas.

Hear what participants at the Swansea datathon had to say about their experience.

Similar but different

Both events saw lots of collaboration and innovative thinking but, importantly, each datathon had its own distinct character too.

Datathon leads look for an interesting background, a willingness to think outside the box and an openness to new ideas in datathon applicants. They each follow a common format: three days, networking, cohort introductions, team building, study/proposal development and presentations. But that’s where the structure stops. Everything else depends on the participants – their ideas, their skills and their curiosity.

The beauty of the datathons is that they are participant-led. We provide a top layer topic – it was comorbidity of dementia in the Swansea and UEA – and of course we provide the data, the tools, the training and the support. But it’s really down to the participants: how they interpret the data and what they choose to discover. It’s up to them to take their ideas where they want to go, whether these be science domain-specific, or more methodological. - Chris Orton, Data Project Manager, DPUK

Following intriguing study presentations at the end of the three days, a number of groups are now working with Sarah and the Data Portal team to develop full DPUK study proposals.

Find out more about DPUK datathons and be the first to know when new dates are announced.