Ashley Akbari Tells Us About His Time at The Farr Institute

Published on: 29th October 2018

We talk to Ashley Akbari, Senior Research Manager and Data Scientist at Swansea University.

What does your work involve?
We work with “Big Data” from around the UK, in an anonymised format stored within the SAIL Databank and part of the UKSeRP infrastructure, to enable large-scale evaluation of population level data. This improves the services and care that people receive as part of routine care and specialised services or interventions such as trials. We work with researchers, academics, policy makers and people from the NHS in both the development and pursuit of their projects and research, as well as supporting their continued development and training.

How long have you been with The Farr Institute?
Since June 2016.

What opportunities has The Farr Institute created for your field of work?
It has enabled great collaboration around the UK, and stimulated research and opportunities to work in partnership with colleagues across a field of disciplines.

What would you say have been your main achievements and successes during your time funded by The Farr Institute?
Developing and being part of a team of researchers in data science and health informatics who have created new methods and techniques in the field of big data, and enabled and completed innovative research.

What Farr Institute research from the past five years do you think has had the greatest impact or benefit to public health/society?
There are many projects we have been involved both at Swansea and with our collaborators around the UK, but one which I have been involved with and continues to do great work is the UK MS Register, some details of which can be found on the Understanding Patient Data website.

Being part of a UK-wide networked Institute, what have you found most challenging and most beneficial?
Whilst there are always challenges to working in a wide multi-disciplinary and multi-location institute, these are far outweighed by the many benefits to working with a wide range of great researchers and academics which has inspired and produced some great cross-country research and has led to future opportunities such as the Health Data Research UK programme.

How do you think The Farr Institute has helped raise awareness of the importance of patient data?
Initiatives like #datasaveslives and Understanding Patient Data have been very important in raising awareness, as well as the many great patient and public engagement groups and activities around the various Farr centres. There is a great wealth of information and materials, which can be drawn on to show the importance of sharing data securely and towards the benefit of the public.

How do you think The Farr Institute has advanced health data research in the UK?
In many ways, too many to mention. It’s best to take a look at the 100 case studies work and all the great research which has been completed across The Farr Institute.

In what ways have you been involved with or used the #datasaveslives campaign?
I’m a keen supporter and always like to use the Twitter hashtag.

Have you been able to gain new experiences or progress your career during your time with The Farr Institute?
You are always learning in the field of data science and The Farr Institute has enabled this for all of our group through the successful projects and collaborations we have been involved in and completed.

What are your plans for the future?
We will be moving forward as the Health Data Research UK Wales & Northern Ireland site and hope to continue the great foundations and principles implemented at The Farr Institute in the future.

What do you think The Farr Institute should be remembered for?
Enabling innovative and successful research and collaboration around the UK.

Contact Ashley on a.akbari@swansea.ac.uk or follow him on Twitter: @AshleyAkbari

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