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Exploring Citizen Science

Jul 31, 2014, 11:34 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves / RWJF Christine Nieves, program associate

I remember the distinct feeling of learning about Foldit. It was a mixture of awe and hope for the potential breakthrough contributions a citizen can make towards science (without needing a PhD!). Foldit is an online puzzle video game about protein folding. In 2011, Foldit users decoded an AIDS protein that had been a mystery to researchers for 15 years. The gamers accomplished it in 3 weeks. When I learned this, it suddenly hit me; if we, society, systematically harness the curiosity of citizens, we could do so much!

This is the spirit behind our recent exploration to learn more about how citizen scientists are addressing some of the most pressing problems in health and health care.

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Another Step Toward Open Health Education

May 22, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Mike Painter

Osmosis Logo Image credit: Knowledge Diffusion

This post was originally published on The Health Care Blog by Shiv Gaglani, Ryan Haynes, and Michael Painter, MD.

Earlier this month Shiv and Ryan published a piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine, entitled What Can Medical Education Learn from Facebook and Netflix? We chose the title because, as medical students, we realized the tools our classmates are using to socialize and watch TV use more sophisticated algorithms than the tools we use to learn medicine.

What if the same mechanisms that Facebook and Netflix use—such as machine learning-based recommender systems, crowdsourcing, and intuitive interfaces—could transform how we educate our health care professionals? For example, just as Amazon recommends products based on other items that customers have bought, we believe that supplementary resources such as questions, videos, images, mnemonics, references, and even real-life patient cases could be automatically recommended based on what students and professionals are learning in the classroom or seeing in the clinic. That is one of the premises behind Osmosis, the flagship educational platform of Knowledge Diffusion, Shiv’s and Ryan’s startup. Osmosis uses data analytics and machine learning to deliver the best medical content to those trying to learn it, as efficiently as possible for the learner. Since its launch in August, Osmosis has delivered over two million questions to more than 10,000 medical students around the world using a novel push notification system that syncs to student curricular schedules.

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Discover Positive Health: New Website Launches

May 9, 2014, 12:25 PM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

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Are you interested in the connection between physical and psychological health? Intrigued about how positive health assets may help us stay healthy and recover more quickly from illness? Looking for ways to stay up-to-speed on the latest research?

Check out the new Positive Health Research website, a valuable resource for those who are exploring the concept of positive health.

Some of the more recent research featured on the website includes:

  • A study into whether life satisfaction impacts how often someone visits the doctor
  • A study that found psychological well-being is associated with a reduced risk of hypertension

Over the past five years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has funded research to help identify the health assets that produce stronger health, in collaboration with the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. This new website showcases the most promising research around the concept of positive health, providing evidence that has the potential to change the way we think about health and health care.

The Case for Journeying to the Center of Our Social Networks

May 5, 2014, 11:07 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Dr_James_Fowler James Fowler, Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at UCSD

James Fowler is Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. His work lies at the intersection of the natural and social sciences, with a focus on social networks, behavior, evolution, politics, genetics, and big data. Together with RWJF grantee Nicholas Christakis, Fowler wrote a book on social networks for a general audience called Connected.

By James Fowler

In recent weeks, much has been made of David Lazer’s finding that Google’s Flu Trends tracker seriously missed the mark in its measurement of flu activity for 2012-2013—and in previous years, too. For those who don’t know, Flu Trends monitors Google search behaviors to identify regions where searches related to flu-like symptoms are spiking.

In spite of Flu Trend’s notable misstep, Lazer still believes in the power of marrying health and social data. In discussing the results of his study, he has maintained Google Flu is “a terrific” idea—one that just needs some refining. I agree.

And, earlier this month, Nicholas Christakis, several other colleagues, and I—with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—published a new method offering one such refinement. Our paper shows that, in a given social network (in this study’s case, Twitter), a sample of its most connected, central individuals can hold significant predictive power. We call this potentially powerful group of individuals a “sensor group.”

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Explore Opportunities and Trends at Health Datapalooza

Apr 28, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

HDP banner 022014

We’re a little over a month away from the 2014 Health Datapalooza (HDP) conference. For those of you who don’t know, HDP—an event of the Health Data Consortium, which RWJF supports—is a great venue to explore the opportunities and trends of open health data.

Trying to get a firm understanding of this space can be challenging, but HDP brings it all together. The conference has tracks focusing on the use of open data by businesses and consumers, in community and clinical settings, and for research purposes.

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