Prof. Will Dixon Talks about the Digital Epidemiology Summer School 2018

Published on: 25th April 2018

Interview with Prof Will Dixon (Digital epidemiologist, rheumatologist and director of the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology in Manchester)

Where did the idea come from to organise this event in Manchester?

Over the course of the last few years, the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology in Manchester has been accumulating experience in running successful digital epidemiology projects. We have, for example, run Cloudy with a Chance of Pain, a national smartphone study in the UK examining the relationship between weather and pain in people with arthritis and other long-term conditions. We successfully recruited over 13,000 participants, with one in seven entering daily data for six months or more. The analysis has also involved lots of novel challenges given the continuous nature of the weather exposure and daily symptom reports.

In this and other projects, there has been lots of learning that we thought would be useful to share – so we set up the Summer School. Whilst we draw on expertise within our own department, we have also invited an excellent and diverse Faculty to give us wide coverage of how new digital opportunities will change epidemiology, noting both the opportunities and challenges.

Is this the first event of its kind that you know about?

Yes, this is the first Digital Epidemiology course that we are aware of.

What are the key topics you will cover?

Throughout the three days, participants will learn all about how to capture and use digital health data to support high-quality epidemiological research. The programme covers opportunities, challenges and methods across a variety of data types, with day 1 dedicated to electronic health records and linked data; Day 2 to patient-generated data, for example as collected through smartphones; and Day 3 to data from wearable sensors, internet of things and social media.

Who would find this summer school of special interest?

In line with the multidisciplinarity of the field, we developed the programme with a broad audience in mind, including: clinical epidemiologists and population health researchers; health data scientists and informaticians; but we also expect that clinicians or people from industry with an interest in epidemiology or data science will get plenty from this course.

What other things would you like to say about your program, or the people in it, or what you hope comes from the program

The program will be delivered by an internationally renowned and multidisciplinary faculty. The programme is led by Will Dixon, John McBeth and Sabine van der Veer. Our guest Faculty includes epidemiologists such as Liam Smeeth, Malcolm Maclure and Soren Brage, biostatisticians including Antonio Gasparrini, health informaticians like David Ford and John Ainsworth and computer scientists including Goran Nenadic. We also have industry reps from Google and Google DeepMind.

The faculty will deliver interactive seminars on cutting-edge methods for collecting and analysing digital data in the context of epidemiological studies, and use real-life examples to demonstrate these methods in action. The course will remain strongly anchored in how digital methods relate to the fundamentals of epidemiology.

Find out more about the Digital Epidemiology Summer School.

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