Recently, HDR UK announced the funding of six new MSc programmes in Health Data Science. This will increase the capacity to deliver the variety of health data science/informatics skills required across health-focussed organisations. However, to meet this demand for skilled health data scientists, we must also develop academics and professionals who understand the complexities and elements of the field, and who devote a substantial amount of their time to health data science education and the delivery of effective and innovative training programmes.  To date, health data science (also referred to as informatics) educators and the field of health informatics education have received less attention than other similar fields such as medical education. Career advancement, particularly for those that focus on teaching and scholarship, has been difficult.  Health Data Science is an inter-disciplinary endeavour and has a strong element of team working: colleagues from diverse fields collaborate to deliver data and digital insights. This requires educators to be conversant with the key ideas and all the academic practices of the different disciplines on which health data science draws, and typically, to be expert in at least one application area within the field as well as have a strong understanding of the latest learning theories and pedagogy. In addition, informatics educators need to be able to build teams (often with those that don’t have a sole focus on education) that can deliver cohesive programmes, increasingly using a cross-institutional/networked approach. To do this, education leaders will be required to deploy team science principles to build such education teams – something that I call ‘Team Education’ in our recent conference paper[1].

These diverse requirements can often prevent professionals who focus on education, from achieving goals required for career advancement, particularly in academia.

Last week Paul Taylor and I delivered a workshop on careers development and skills for health informatics educators at an American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Informatics Educators meeting[2]. Our primary aim was to increase the profile of education-led academics and to co-develop a framework focussed for informatics educators.  Based on our 20 years’ experience of delivering Masters programmes in the UK, including the first UK MSc Health Data Science programmes & large-scale cross-institutional Health Informatics programmes, we shared our experiences and, shaped by the participants challenges in delivering informatics education, we discussed strategies for the development of diverse informatics education teams and informatics educators’ skills.

HDR UK, as part of its strategy to deliver training programmes and to develop data scientists’ career paths, will look to support the development of educators and education skills in the field.  Later this year Paul and I will be hosting our first UK workshop that will bring together those focussed on delivering education programmes across the UK to foster the culture of ‘team education’, continue the development of the informatics educators framework, and build a community of practice in the field that will support those involved in development and delivery of informatics education programmes.

Just like researchers, educators will be key in driving the next generation of education in the field and developing the necessary careers for data scientists.

[1] Moulton, G. and Taylor, P. Team Education: deploying team science principles to deliver health informatics education SciTS 2019.

[2] Moulton, G and Taylor, P. Career Development for Informatics Educators AMIA conference 2019