At the Health and Care Research Wales annual conference on Oct 5th, there was something unusual to try at the National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research (NCPHWR) stand- virtual reality! More specifically, simulations of data sets.
Data science is an increasingly important field. A number of NCPHWR researchers are utilising the rich data held in the SAIL Databank. SAIL, which stands for Secure Anonymised Information Linkage, is based at Swansea University and it holds a range of anonymised, person-based datasets and, subject to safeguards and approvals, these can be anonymously linked together to address important research questions. However, as it's based on abstraction, the processes involved can be difficult to convey to the uninitiated.
This new virtual reality project embeds the viewer inside a dataset, revealing the 'shape' of the data that researchers are looking for. These shapes are captured in models that essentially tell us how a phenomenon, such as a disease, is likely to be behaving. For example, one data set contains data on 590 anonymised cases of breast cancer, arranged according to features e.g. whether malignant or benign.
The programmes used by the team at the event, and at September's Swansea Science Festival, are accessed by typing in a webpage onto a smart phone and then inserting the device into a 'Google Cardboard' headset, allowing a 3D perspective.
NCPHWR welcome your ideas for public engagement, the key contact is Cate Batchelder- firstname.lastname@example.org