Past Awardee

Public Health Cyberenvironments: Defining Scope and Needs in the Health Service

Timothy Huerta

College: Applied Health Sciences
Award year: 2006-2007

NCSA can and will play in the future of public health. Through the use of the CI-KNOW (Cyberinfrastructure Knowledge Networks on the Web), tuned to the needs of public health, the impact on clarifying and identifying system knowledge, enabling a more rapid deployment of evidence-informed policy, and the dissolution of disciplinary silos for the purposes of generating synergy can be staggering. In developing cyberinfrastructure to support cybercommunity through the implementation of a multidimentional analysis of data in a network analytic architecture, CI-KNOW has the capability not only to link the right inputs to the right outputs, but provide quality indicators to determine which of the inputs would be better to more effectively move research to planned outputs. The advent of sophisticated cyberinfrastructure holds the technological promise of enabling individuals to seamlessly (i) collaborate with other individuals located anywhere around the globe, (ii) access and analyze data located anywhere on earth and (iii) execute programs using computing cycles residing on computers anywhere. However, the same suite of technologies that enable these global capabilities, impairs the ability of researchers to know which other researchers have similar (or complementary) expertise, what data sets are most relevant to their research, what analytic tools are most appropriate to investigate these data sets, and what related concepts might they be interested in investigating. Even were such an infrastructure to be put into place tomorrow, these tools and services would need context-appropriate user interfaces and portals for easy interaction with the applications, and workflow and collaboration software to support complex, collaborative projects. This fellowship offers a novel opportunity to address three critical basic research questions. What are the essential informational elements of a network data structure that supports collaboration outcomes? What structural incentives will engage users to building a "community of practice" that optimizes the performance of the network referral tools? What data elements are to necessary effectively measure the impact of CI projects on network outcomes? If, as the NCSA suggests, "social networking services help communities function as communities" then providing the tools the enable communities in the language that means something to the participants is key. Unlike traditional bench science, much of the work of health research takes place on a continuum that includes bench research (basic sciences), clinical research and population-level studies. Public health is complicated by the lack of common language that is often available in other problem domains, simply because it is transdisciplinary in nature. This proposal will focus on developing meaningful criteria for engagement that will foster adoption rather than simply being neutral to the subject.