Often when diversity is talked about, we focus on people. However, one of the areas we should consider is the diversity of skills, especially as it could be argued that the diversity in skills and roles can influence and improve diversity in other areas.
Health data science is an interdisciplinary field drawing on computational science, statistics, mathematics, medicine, biosciences as well as social sciences, and it is this melting pot of skills that is required to drive actionable insights from health data. The current situation with COVID-19 has put into sharp focus the need for these skills, as data is being used to drive health policy and health operational decisions.
I have worked in the field for 15 years focussing on health data science (informatics) learning and development, and during this time, I have seen the number of skills required to work in the field increase and rapidly change such that no one single person can possess them. For us to make real impact through the use of real-world health and bioscience data, we cannot focus on health data science as being an individual, but a collection of individuals that use their diverse skills and backgrounds.
In HDR UK’s latest work focussing on skills, we conducted the first systematic review of its kind looking at all published competency frameworks and curriculum in a range of clinical areas, with a focus on informatics/data science. We found that the most frequent skills mentioned were statistics and modelling, data processing, data security and data management, as well as the regulatory frameworks and policies, and health technologies such as mobile health. In addition to the technical and methodological skills, were the understanding of human and organisational factors, and leadership and management skills, particularly around implementing change. This analysis led to a core competency framework for health (clinical) informaticians that outlines 111 competencies across 6 domains . The framework provides the basis from which individuals can operate in these teams, and converse using a similar language, being able to understand the main concepts in health data science/informatics. Our current work, which builds on this, is allowing us to now to delve deeper into the depth of these areas required for each role required in health data science, thus providing a skills map that will be able to be used to describe the diversity of roles (and careers) required for health data science. This is from bioinformaticians, data analysts through to data engineers.
In 2020 the most advertised roles in ‘data science’ were the Artificial Intelligence Specialist, Data Protection Officer and Robotics Engineer. This reflects the current trend and importance of these topics, but our work at HDR UK wishes to increase the visibility of skills and roles in academia that currently are overlooked, but are essential in health data science teams. One of these groups is the Digital Research Technologist community who play a crucial role within a team providing data and digital expertise to support addressing the research questions.
At HDR UK, we strive to ensure that we continuously address the diversity of skills through the training opportunities we provide through both our professional development programmes and academic programmes. This can be seen in the recently supported Masters programmes across the UK that all focus on developing skills for health data scientists, but also represent the diversity of technical and methodological skills required across the bio-health-population health domain axis.
It is through providing training that allow individuals and teams to have these diversity of skills, that HDR UK can also continue with its commitment to develop and increase the diversity of career paths in the field of health data science.
 Alan Davies, Julia Mueller, Georgina Moulton Core competencies for clinical informaticians: A systematic review International Journal of Medical Informatics, (2020) 141, 104237,