Vol. 8 No. 3 (2023): Conference Proceedings for Digital Footprints Conference 2023
Organising committee: Prof Michelle Morris (co-chair), Dr Anya Skatova (co-chair), Dr Neo Poon, Victoria Sivill, Elizabeth Dolan, Dr Victoria Jenneson, Dr Francesca Pontin, Dr James Goulding
There is great potential for the use of digital footprint data in research and a clear aspiration to link these novel data sources to more traditional data such as cohort studies and health records. Significant innovation is needed to develop new ways of working with these novel data sources and ensure that learnings are shared and effort not duplicated. With that in mind we established the Novel Data Linkage for Health and Wellbeing Interest Group at the Alan Turing Institute in 2022. From our first meeting at the Institute it was clear that important work was already underway in this area so we convened the inaugural Digital Footprints Conference to showcase this work and bring together academics and non-academic collaborators. The Conference was hosted at the University of Bristol in the iconic Wills Building on the 11th May 2023.
Conference submissions and delegates
The conference received numerous abstract submissions and following a peer review process 33 abstracts were accepted for presentation. The presentations were delivered as eight flash talks, four of which were from early career researchers, and 25 poster presentations. Authors were from a range of disciplines, career stages and sectors, some with international collaborators. The conference attracted 70 delegates from a variety of backgrounds, mostly academic and industry.
The conference began with a plenary talk from Dr Emma Gordon from Administrative Data Research UK sharing valuable lessons learned from an administrative data linkage programme, before moving on to a plenary talk from Deborah Kroll, Head of Strategy and Partnerships, Smart Data Research UK (formerly Digital Footprints at the ESRC sharing news from the innovative new Smart Data Research UK programme. We then moved onto the first session of flash talks. Poster presentations were enjoyed while networking over lunch, before a second session of flash talks. We welcomed a keynote talk from Dr Tom Smith, Director and Chief data office at the Spatial Data Unit of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. More poster perusal over a refreshment break took place before a Panel session and closing remarks. We welcomed three diverse colleagues to the panel, Dr Alisha Davies from Public Health Wales and the Alan Turing Institute, Hannah Skeggs from the IGD (Institute for Grocery Distribution) and Dr James Goulding form the University of Nottingham. Our panel collectively represented academia, industry and a policy related setting which made for excellent discussion. Our panel shared their short and long term visions for digital footprint data research for public good and the important considerations for making this happen. All of the panel shared that they will be thinking and doing things differently after what they had learned from colleagues throughout the conference.
Highlights from the Proceedings
These proceedings present a collection of shared learnings from working with novel digital footprint data which span traditional subject domains. Research questions range from theory about human behaviour, through mathematical modelling, data validation, population health trends to human mobility patterns. The innovation and enthusiasm with the community is in using these novel data in new ways to unlock important insight.
Take home messages
- The importance and role of early career researchers was a recurring message throughout this conference. We must all invest in these colleagues as they are the future leaders of digital footprints research.
- There is already a fascinating community generating insight and evidence from digital footprint data and we need to ensure that there is an ongoing platform to share learnings.
- Given the variety of sources of digital footprint research data and broad application areas, to ensure progress, cross sector working and collaboration is essential. This needs to go beyond a ‘data service’ platform, but a sharing of expertise; from the data provenance, through governance challenges to interpretation and dissemination of findings which will collectively ensure wide reaching impact.
Dr Anya Skatova and Prof Michelle Morris, on behalf of the organising committee