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    Archive for the 'Population Health Sciences' Category

    UCL cohorts, biobanks and big data

    By Guest Blogger, on 29 March 2017

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    Written by Rob Davies, Public Affairs Manager for CLOSER, UCL Institute of Education

    What are the opportunities and challenges facing cohort and longitudinal studies? Do we need more biobanks or more extensive (and imaginative) use of existing ones? What more can we do to capitalise on administrative records and other forms of big data?

    These were some of the questions discussed at UCL cohorts, biobanks and big data symposium, which brought together researchers from across UCL and further afield to showcase activity in this area.

    CohortsNo other country in the world is tracking as many people and in such detail throughout their lives

    Professor Dame Anne Johnson introduced the afternoon and how the cohort studies are a resource not just for the nation but for the world.  More than 2.2 million people in the UK are currently participating in population based cohort studies, with 15 of these hosted at UCL.

    These include the oldest and newest cohort studies and CLOSER, the UK longitudinal studies consortium, which is charged with maximising their use, value and impact both at home and abroad.

    Past, present and future: innovation in cohort studies

    This first session began with Helen Pearson, author of The Life Project, who explained how a chance encounter with the MRC 1946 National Survey of Health and Development Cohort website, the largest study of human development in the world, led to five years researching and writing about the British cohort studies.

    “The cohort studies have influenced and shaped policy on pregnancy, birth, schooling, adult education, foetal development, chronic conditions and ageing and touched the lives of everyone in the country today,” she said.

    The ways in which cohort studies collect data from participants have changed over time, said Professor Alison Park, who discussed use of new technological advances, including wearable devices.

    Professor Nishi Chaturvedi argued that to achieve precision medicine we need to pay more attention to the phenotype and the role cohorts can play in this.

    Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 11.54.59Professor Ruth Gilbert described ADRC’s work on approaches to data linkage and the enormous value in administrative data, either in its own right or when linked to survey data.

    Finally, Professor Caroline Sabin introduced the UK Collaborative HIV Cohort (UK CHIC) Study and explained the value of linking clinic and surveillance databases for HIV research.

    Making the case for cohorts, biobanks and big data

    In this ‘Question Time’ session speakers made the case for cohorts, biobanks and big data.

    Cohorts are vital, nationally representative, scientific resources which enable us to understand the link between early life circumstances and life’s many and varied outcomes, argued Professor Alissa Goodman.

    Professor Sir Rory Collins spoke in favour of large scale studies and biological repositories, pointing out the value of establishing prospective cohorts in different populations who have different types of diseases and risk factors.

    TScreen Shot 2017-03-29 at 11.54.27he case for big data and potential for access to real time data was made by Professor Harry Hemingway in the context of the new UK health and biomedical informatics research institute, Health Data Research UK. This institute will, for the first time in the world, incorporate on a national scale the whole breadth of data science research aimed at improving human health.

    Opportunities and challenges for investment in cohorts, biobanks and big data

    Professor Graham Hart chaired the final session with some of the funders of major longitudinal and cohort studies.

    Representatives from the MRC, ESRC, British Heart Foundation and Wellcome Trust emphasised how cohorts are hugely influential, a vital part of the national infrastructure and uniquely placed to study the interplay of factors in a population over time.

    We heard about how the funding landscape has changed, with ever increasing pressures on budgets, and the need to bring cohorts together, citing CLOSER as an important initiative in this space.

    Increasingly funders are working in partnership to fund these large investments. A recurring message was the value of talking to funders before submitting bids, the importance of an interdisciplinary approach and data access and discoverability.

    Those interested in the use of new technologies can get a flavour of what’s on offer at two events organised by CLOSER in May.

     

    A thorn in the side: launch of the UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health

    By Guest Blogger, on 6 March 2017

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    By Dr Geordan Shannon, UCL Institute for Global Health 

    UCL is known for challenging the status quo. It was with this sentiment that the UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health was officially launched on the 16th February 2017.

    Led by Professor Sarah Hawkes, the centre will reach beyond academia to work with policy-makers and policy-influencers to address the complex relationship between gender and health.

    A global community of change makers and thought leaders converged to discuss innovations in gender and global health research. The daylong event included keynotes, interactive panels, film screenings, Q&A sessions and a networking reception.

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    Images: Ilan Kelman ilankelman.org

    Keynotes

    The keynote panellists spoke about key challenges to gender and global health research, policy and action.

    Rachel Jewkes, the Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s Gender and Health Research Unit, shared new directions in gender-based violence interventions and highlighted feminist approaches to resilience.

    Benno de Keijzer, Professor of Health and Masculinities at Universidad Veracruzana and co-founder of the NGO Salud y Género, challenged the concept of hegemonic masculinity and how it relates to both men’s and women’s wellbeing.

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    Women’s political participation in Somaliland

    By Guest Blogger, on 1 March 2017

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    By Lilian Schofield, UCL Bartlett Development Planning Unit 

    Reflections from the ‘Women’s Political Participation in Somaliland’ event that took place on the 2nd of February 2017 and was presented by the UCL Development Planning Unit DPU, Somaliland Mission to the UK and Somaliland Focus (UK).

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    Picture: from left Amina-Bahja Ekman, Michael Walls, Nafisat Yusuf Mohammed, Hodan Hassan Elmi, Malou Schueller and James Firebrace

    The concept of women’s exclusion from political participation is commonplace throughout the world. The principles of inclusion and equality occupies a central place in the discourse of political participation. According to the 2011 UN General Assembly resolution on women’s political participation, women all over the world continue to be largely marginalised from participating in politics and face a myriad of challenges and barriers in doing so. For women in many African countries, these challenges are made up of a complex set of factors and often embedded in local tradition, culture and religion. Women in Somaliland are not excluded from some of these challenges and barriers.

    Read more at the UCL Bartlett Development Planning Unit blog. 

    Education Select Committee Brexit hearing session at UCL

    By Melissa Bradshaw, on 9 February 2017

    On 25 January, the Education Select Committee held the second Oral Evidence Session of its inquiry on the effect of Brexit on higher education (HE) at UCL.

    The committee heard evidence from UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur, NUS Vice-President (Higher Education) Sorana Vieru and representatives of University and College Union, Erasmus Student Network UK, Universities UK, the British Council and London Economics.

    There was a strong consensus on the potentially damaging effects of Brexit on HE, and an urgent call for the government to do more to address them.

    Professor Michael Arthur

    Professor Michael Arthur

    The hearing took place just over a week after Theresa May’s historic speech on the UK’s strategy for exiting the European Union, and evidence was heard in two panels.

    The Chair of the Education Committee, Neil Carmichael MP, began each session by asking the panellists for their reaction to the Prime Minister’s speech.

    Every one of the panellists welcomed the tone of the speech and its emphasis on a “global Britain”, but called for immediate action and more specific detail – particularly in regard to the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK.

    Referring to the Prime Minister’s expressed wish to guarantee the rights of EU citizens, Professor Arthur said: “I’d like to challenge the Prime Minister to go one step further and take the initiative to make the guarantee and challenge the rest of the EU to follow”, arguing that this would give Britain the moral high-ground and provide the negotiations a foundation of good will.

    The committee heard evidence of the significant contribution of the higher education sector to the British economy, including the contributions EU staff and students make to the wider economy when they are residing here.

    Dr Gavan Conlon (London Economics) also argued that, with education the UK’s fifth largest services export, the HE sector can generate revenue that could contribute to the government’s Industrial Strategy.

    The panellists spoke of the positive contributions that EU staff and students make in terms of diversity and ‘soft power’, contributing to Britain’s prestigious academic profile and giving their British peers invaluable experience in international engagement, leadership and collective problem solving. “For a global Britain we need global graduates”, said Rosie Birchard (Erasmus Student Network UK).

    The committee also heard evidence that currently UK HE “punches well above its weight” globally – thanks, in part, to our membership of the EU. Jo Beall (British Council) pointed to statistics showing that the UK leads the world in research quality (by field-weighted citation impact) and 1 in 10 world leaders were educated here.

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