Population Data Science - Explore the value, apply the skills
Data now fuels decision-making in almost every sector of our society. As a result, interest in data-intensive science is growing rapidly as opportunities to explore this expanding resource source abound. A new and related area of interest for social science researchers is highlighted in a recent article: Population Data Science: The Science of data about people. While related to the fields of data science and informatics, it focuses more broadly on data use for positive impact on individuals and populations. It also sees real value in “analyzing data from multiple sources, identifying population-level insights and developing safe, privacy-sensitive and ethical infrastructures to support research.”
Many foundational skills associated with this type of research are key to working with administrative data. It is commonly derived from administrative systems that collect data within governmental agencies for the purposes of registration, transaction and record keeping such as medical records, census information and insurance claims.
Because of the complex and sensitive nature of this data, researchers need to develop specialized skills. They must be able to ensure safe and ethical measures are applied to address today’s world of information privacy and security concerns. Furthermore, application of specific analytic methods to deal with this large and often “messy” data is key to uncovering the story within this valuable resource. In doing so, population data science researchers can address fundamental questions of interest to understanding human behavior and social determinants of health needed to make a positive impact on individuals and our larger society.
The ability to address these questions using administrative data are key components of what the PHDA 01 Working with Administrative Data course offers.
Kim Nuernberger is a specialist in population health surveillance and epidemiological studies using administrative data and the instructor for the Working with Administrative Data course this September. “I have been using administrative data to gain insight into health and health services research for many years and I’m excited to share this knowledge and passion for health data analysis with my student colleagues. The ability to affectively use administrative data opens the door to studying all kinds of important research questions – the course emphasizes hands-on training so you’ll learn the skills to apply key methods in your work afterwards.”