NYU Tandon Governance Lab Helps England's National Health Service Talent to Optimize Big Data

Research Identifies Gaps in Human Capital and Technical Expertise

The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering has published a report aimed at helping Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) harness the talents and expertise needed to analyze the enormous amounts of data it amasses.

When data are analyzed in a responsible, trusted manner, with a focus on protecting patient privacy, rich insights can be gleaned, with the potential to vastly improve healthcare quality and accessibility. Efforts to do so have been hampered, however, by a lack of personnel with the required data analytical skills. The NHS is not unique among public and even private sector institutions struggling to identify, hire, and retain people with data science skills, and, above all, with the ability to apply new technological tactics to advance the institution’s priorities.

In a research report issued yesterday, The GovLab uncovered a number of initiatives by public institutions that have successfully harnessed human expertise, and it recommended exploration and potential adoption of several approaches to augmenting data science capacity that could benefit the NHS and its
stakeholders — as well as any organization seeking to close an analytics talent gap. These include:

  • Using new technology to coordinate talent already inside the agency but that is widely distributed — including project marketplaces like those successfully implemented at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and data labs, such as the one in place at the U.K. Ministry of Justice to make better use of sensitive administrative data
  • Using new technology such as talent banks and the online SkillFinder to reveal talent hiding in plain sight — those with the relevant skills who are not already classed as analysts
  • Using expert networks to connect with data science expertise outside the NHS
  • Bringing in additional talent from outside in a cost-effective manner, including prize-backed challenges and foundation-funded fellowships

Undertaking initiatives in these areas would enable the NHS (or any agency that implements them) to invest more in predictive analysis that maximizes beneficial outcomes.

Beth Simone Noveck, the Jerry M. Hultin Professor at NYU Tandon and director of The GovLab, says that marshalling the expertise to effectively analyze its trove of data is essential “whether the NHS wants to know which techniques to use to spot the most high-risk patients or how to allocate beds during a particularly cold winter, or explain why a given community has a disproportionate incidence of a certain condition.” She cautions, however: “To create a data-driven culture, it is not enough to have analysts buried three layers deep in the bureaucracy. Rather, data scientists and technologists need to be ‘at the table’ for all major decisions enabling new policies and services to be informed by evidence of past practice and modeling of future scenarios.”

The full report, “Smarter Health: Boosting Analytical Capacity at NHS,” is available at http://www.thegovlab.org/static/files/publications/nhs-health.pdf.

About The Governance Lab
The GovLab’s mission is to improve people’s lives by changing the way we govern. Our goal is to strengthen the ability of institutions – including but not limited to governments – and people to work more openly, collaboratively, effectively, and legitimately to make better decisions and solve public problems. We believe that increased availability and use of data, new ways to leverage the capacity, intelligence, and expertise of people in the problem-solving process, combined with new advances in technology and science, can transform governance. We approach each challenge and opportunity in an interdisciplinary, collaborative way, irrespective of the problem, sector, geography, and level of government. For more information, visit www.thegovlab.org.

About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering
The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly). A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, the country’s largest private research university, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates Future Labs focused on start-up businesses in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program. For more information, visit engineering.nyu.edu.