Now Viewing: Data

Exploring Citizen Science

Jul 31, 2014, 11:34 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves / RWJF Christine Nieves, program associate

I remember the distinct feeling of learning about Foldit. It was a mixture of awe and hope for the potential breakthrough contributions a citizen can make towards science (without needing a PhD!). Foldit is an online puzzle video game about protein folding. In 2011, Foldit users decoded an AIDS protein that had been a mystery to researchers for 15 years. The gamers accomplished it in 3 weeks. When I learned this, it suddenly hit me; if we, society, systematically harness the curiosity of citizens, we could do so much!

This is the spirit behind our recent exploration to learn more about how citizen scientists are addressing some of the most pressing problems in health and health care.

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Personal Health Data Goes to the Doctor

Jul 9, 2014, 9:15 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves, Steve Downs

Open mHealth Logo

Since the advent of the stethoscope, information-gathering technology has been helping doctors and other medical professionals improve patient health. Over the past decade, RWJF has funded a series of projects that suggest helping patients track and share data with their clinicians can strengthen the patient-clinician partnership and improve health outcomes. It makes sense that giving clinicians access to patient-tracked health data can improve the health of individuals and communities. As simple as the concept may sound, though, unlocking personal health data for clinical purposes has proven quite challenging. 

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Big Strides in Community-Level Interventions at Health Datapalooza

Jun 10, 2014, 2:38 PM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Paul Tarini, Susan Dentzer, Dwayne Spradlin, Greg Downing, and David Vockell discuss harnessing data for health on an RWJF First Friday Hangout

As co-chair of the Community Track at this year’s Health Datapalooza conference, I was impressed by the strong sense of purpose I felt among the attendees. The conversation has clearly moved from the abstract concepts of gathering and accessing data, to how we can use that data to solve real-world challenges. The launch of a new network to bring together researchers, scientists and companies and accelerate research using personal health data, led by the Health Data Exploration project with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was one of many efforts designed to directly improve our understanding of health through the wise use of data.

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RWJF Pioneering Ideas Podcast: Episode 4 | MakerNurse, Visualizing Health Data & More

May 12, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Please note that this podcast player might not work in some versions of Internet Explorer. Please view this page in another browser, such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari. You may also access the episode via SoundCloud.

Welcome to the fourth episode of RWJF’s Pioneering Ideas podcast, where we explore cutting edge ideas and emerging trends that can transform health and health care. Your host is Lori Melichar, director at the foundation.

TED Master Class Game designer Jane McGonigal and IDEO CEO Tim Brown join Thomas Goetz for the master class conversation at TED 2014

Ideas & Projects in This Episode

  • MakerNurse (2:38) - Nurses Kelly Reilly, Roxana Reyna, and Mary Beth Dwyer share how they hack the supplies in their hospitals’ supply closets to improve patient care. (These nurses are all involved with RWJF grantee MakerNurse, the brainchild of Jose Gomez-Marquez and Anna Young, who lead the Little Devices Lab at MIT.)
  • Alternative Marketplaces (8:59) - Grantees Terry McDonald (St. Vincent de Paul) and George Wang (SIRUM) have something in common: They’re passionate about turning other people’s trash into resources that can improve health and health care. We introduced them and invited them to have a conversation about their work.
  • Visualizing Health (19:15) - RWJF entrepreneur in residence and former WIRED editor Thomas Goetz, RWJF program officer Andrea Ducas, designer Tim Leong and the University of Michigan’s Brian Zikmund-Fisher talk about Visualizing Health (vizhealth.org) -- how it came about, how they collaborated to make it happen, how it features agile research practices and what they hope happens next
  • Designing a Culture of Health (25:45) - Game designer Jane McGonigal and IDEO CEO Tim Brown share ideas about designing a culture of health (highlights from the master class conversation at TED 2014).

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The Case for Journeying to the Center of Our Social Networks

May 5, 2014, 11:07 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Dr_James_Fowler James Fowler, Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at UCSD

James Fowler is Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. His work lies at the intersection of the natural and social sciences, with a focus on social networks, behavior, evolution, politics, genetics, and big data. Together with RWJF grantee Nicholas Christakis, Fowler wrote a book on social networks for a general audience called Connected.

By James Fowler

In recent weeks, much has been made of David Lazer’s finding that Google’s Flu Trends tracker seriously missed the mark in its measurement of flu activity for 2012-2013—and in previous years, too. For those who don’t know, Flu Trends monitors Google search behaviors to identify regions where searches related to flu-like symptoms are spiking.

In spite of Flu Trend’s notable misstep, Lazer still believes in the power of marrying health and social data. In discussing the results of his study, he has maintained Google Flu is “a terrific” idea—one that just needs some refining. I agree.

And, earlier this month, Nicholas Christakis, several other colleagues, and I—with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—published a new method offering one such refinement. Our paper shows that, in a given social network (in this study’s case, Twitter), a sample of its most connected, central individuals can hold significant predictive power. We call this potentially powerful group of individuals a “sensor group.”

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