STOR-i PhD Students Dive into Supporting the British Red Cross

Data on the Shire Event

PhD students at the EPSRC-funded STOR-i Centre for Doctoral Training had an engaging week in May working on a “data dive” with the British Red Cross. This was part of a larger event, Data on the Shire, which STOR-i ran in partnership with the SFI Centre for Research Training in Foundations of Data Science in Ireland, who have students studying across three Irish Universities. Over 100 PhD students across the four institutions took part, working in cross-institutional groups to pool their knowledge and experience to devise a wide range of outputs for the charity partner.

The aim of the data dive was to support British Red Cross Health and Care Services by analysing British Red Cross data alongside publicly available health data. The challenges were designed to help British Red Cross better understand whether their services are reaching the people who most need their support, access new data, gain better insights of health systems and develop plans for how they could target their services in the future. All of these elements could have a big impact on the way the British Red Cross distributes their time and funding in the future.

Dr Matt Thomas, Head of Strategic Insight and Foresight at the British Red Cross said: “Data on the Shire was a wonderful way to begin our partnership with STOR-i. The students and academic staff were so enthusiastic and a pleasure to work with, and we learnt a lot about insights hidden in our services’ data as well as new methods we can use to support development of our Health and Care services.”

A wide range of speakers from expert academic statisticians and Operational Researchers to those working in industry, including some STOR-i alumni, presented during the week. These motivational talks created an engaging atmosphere and an innovative training week for all PhD students.

Danielle Notice, STOR-i PhD student, reflected on the event: “The Data Dive with the British Red Cross was a good experience. It was thought-provoking to learn about the data they have and the real humanitarian impact it can make. A variety of data challenges were presented, each using different types of data and requiring different skills/methods to reach solutions. My group worked on a challenge involving unstructured data and lots of text analysis – an area previously little known to me. Collaborating with, and getting to know the people from the Irish Centre for Research Training with their different areas of expertise, was particularly interesting. Ultimately, I enjoyed the Data Dive – it was a pleasant change of pace from my usual PhD routine, and enabled me to work with new people on new things.”

Professor Rachel McCrea, Deputy Director of STOR-i, said: “Data on the Shire was a valuable experience for students to have the opportunity to work collaboratively to help the British Red Cross. I was so impressed at how well the students approached the challenges, using their extensive statistics and Operational Research knowledge to discover valuable insight from data. We look forward to our continuing relationship with the British Red Cross and to seeing how the students’ contributions impact the charity’s future planning.”

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