What’s It Like To Attend A Data Science Meeting?

Last week, the MQ and DATAMIND Data Science Meeting took place in Swansea.

The DATAMIND Hub expands the benefits of data by safely and securely combining data from multiple sources, such as health records, schools, administration, charities and more. Then, through the UK Health Data Research Innovation Gateway, researchers can discover the data and use it most effectively so that eventually we can together make the next breakthroughs in mental health science leading to a mentally healthier future for us all.

Bethan Reeves (pictured above) is an early career researcher who attended the event in Wales as well as the associated workshop the previous day. Here, she kindly shares what it was like to attend.

The Workshop: Academia and Industry

In April, I was fortunate enough to travel to Swansea University for the MQ and DataMind mental health and data science workshop and conference.

As someone who works in Data Science in the NHS as well as studying for a doctorate in Data Science, the two days were the perfect fusion of academia and industry for me.

Met by friendly faces, attendees at the workshop were of a variety of backgrounds and research areas. Dr Marcos Del Pozo Banos took us through the mathematical underpinnings and workings of popular machine learning algorithms, with a final full code implementation.

What I found helpful here were the pre-workshop video lectures which assured everyone was at a same baseline level of knowledge ahead of the day. Getting to grips with the workings of machine learning models can sometimes be overlooked since execution can be so simple with today’s technology. I really appreciated the refresher.

The Meeting: Eye-opening Insights

The following day saw attendees arrive to hear about the latest data research and analytics developments in mental health.

The opportunity to hear from Andy Boyd and James Walters on such interesting but differing topics was insightful. This included understanding how longitudinal data linkage is being conducted within trusted research environments followed by insights on precision psychiatry for severe mental illness diagnosis were eye-openers for me.

Presenting as an Early Career Researcher

MQ and DATAMIND always make space for early career researchers and lift us up in our development. Prior to the event, I submitted an abstract to present on the day and – to my surprise – was selected for the early career presentations slot. Having never presented at a conference before, I was nervous but knew this environment was the best place to test the waters.

Each researcher had a 3-minute slot to share their work with the use of one presentation slide. Although challenging, this renowned approach allows researchers to practice conveying their work succinctly, and the process enabled me to assess my research and really consider its most valuable elements and broader impacts. There were eight presentations in total and these really flew by.

During the lunch break, a second opportunity for early career researchers to showcase their work came around, this time via poster presentations. Visiting each presenter, it was great to see such a range of research topics and applications of data science in the field. Whilst I didn’t have experience in all areas of the applications, it was interesting to see methods I’ve used in the past applied in different ways.

Valuable And Thought-Provoking

After lunch were two more thought-provoking talks, sandwiched around a panel discussion regarding the social perspective of mental health data research. This panel was of particular interest to me as I’ve been primarily supporting a community-based service at my trust, and it was helpful to hear from more biologically driven researchers on how social perspectives could be blended with more traditional, clinical, approaches to mental health care.

The two days were so varied, and I left Swansea with a renewed passion for my ongoing research, as well as being full of new ideas for next steps in my career.

Our thanks to Bethan for sharing her experiences. Find out more about funding opportunities for researchers here.

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