Future Leaders in Health Data Science Gather in Swansea

Published on: 6th October 2017

This week, the second cohort of early to mid career researchers met in Swansea to start their journey towards becoming future leaders in health data science.

Farr Future Leaders is a two-year programme including residential courses, leadership training and network based mentorship and career development for mid-career, independent researchers.

It is sponsored by The Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research and facilitated by The Farr Institute’s Training and Capacity Building Group Leads.

Its aim is to bring together researchers who have already demonstrated innovation in the field of health data science and prepare them for the next step in their career. This is achieved through workshops in leadership, academic development and networking activities to help them build peer networks, get creative and start thinking out of the confines of individual research projects.

After the first cohort launched successfully in Manchester in March 2017, a new cohort of scientists from the UK and international institutions began their training with a four-day residential meeting.

The first full day was all about introducing the participants and looking at the inner workings of exemplary organisations. In the afternoon, the group visited the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) project at Swansea University and heard from Ashley Akbari, Senior Research Analyst and Simon Thompson, Chief Technical Officer about the key projects running at SAIL. Ashley and Simon had also prepared a set of challenges for the cohort around how they would structure a given challenge, research project or grant compared to how it had already been dealt with by SAIL.

The Farr Institute Capacity Building Leads (from left to right): Colin McCowan, Paul Taylor, Georgina Moulton, Athanasios Anastasiou

On the second day, Future Leaders focussed on the research-commercial interface. Invited facilitators Graham Howieson (entrepreneur and ex-owner SME  eLucid), Professor Tjeerd Van Staa (University of Manchester)  and Jonathan Smart, (Business Director at SAIL), worked with them to better understand  and prepare for working with SMEs and other industry partners.

On the final day, participants were invited to identify pros and cons of fruitful collaborations by reflecting on their own good (and not so good) experiences. Participants also identified further leadership training needs that will inform future opportunities and events.

Professor David Ford, Deputy Director of Farr Institute, CIPHER, said: “ Enhancing our capacity to do more and better research with patient data is what the Farr Institute is all about, and a huge part of that is bringing on the Future Leaders. This initiative gives a great group of promising researchers a rare opportunity to step out of the daily grind, think strategically about their discipline and their careers and, hopefully, find a supportive network of like-minded people that they want to work with.”

The Capacity Building Working Group¹ added: “This has been another successful Farr Future Leaders meeting, building on experiences with cohort 1 earlier this year . Thank you to all those who made this event so successful. We really enjoy developing people for the future, there’s always a huge sense of energy, of opportunity, and a lot of laughter.”

Mentorship will be provided by The Farr Institute’s Directors and other senior leaders in health data science from within Farr. Cohort members will arrange and undertake visits to other institutions to build collaborations and develop international networks to drive the research of tomorrow. It is expected that cohorts will maintain the relationships they develop.

The Farr Future Leaders Programme will bring the two cohorts together for a second residential workshop and future leadership training in June 2018.

The members of this cohort are:

Dr Duncan Appelbe, University of Liverpool
Dr Derek Corrigan, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Dr Chris Gale, Imperial College London
Dr Emily Jefferson, University of Dundee
Dr Dave McLernon, University of Aberdeen
Dr Amy Metcalfe, University of Calgary
Dr Laura Shallcross, University College London
Dr Sabine van der Veer, University of Manchester
Dr Becca Wilson, University of Newcastle

For more information about the programme, contact Dr Wing-Chau Tung, Network Manager, 020 3549 5319,

¹ Prof Colin McCowan (University of Glasgow), Dr Paul Taylor (UCL), Dr Georgina Moulton (University of Manchester), Athanasios Anastasiou (Swansea University)

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