This interdisciplinary pathway is built around Swansea University’s leadership in state-of-the-art developments in ‘big data’ for the improvement of population health and wellbeing. Swansea’s Data Science Building (DSB), completed August 2015, combines elements of the University’s Medical School and the cross-university Research Institute for Applied Social Sciences (RIASS). It is home to both the Medical Research Council Farr Institute and the £8m ESRC-funded Administrative Data Research Centre – Wales: one of 4 major UK centres which comprise the ESRC Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN).
This excellent research environment includes research on a range of social factors and their relationship to health and wellbeing (such as the impact of alcohol accessibility on alcohol related harm; the impact of housing regeneration on physical and mental health outcomes). Researchers have a strong track record of working collaboratively with public and third-sector partners, promoting co-produced research to most effectively overcome the challenges of big data to make significant impacts on society.
Working across the social sciences and health informatics, the pathway provides a unique setting for developing a new kind of researcher to address specific UK and international research skills needs. The pathway combines a world-leading research environment and first-class facilities; a unique academic focus linking many different types of data to health records involving an interdisciplinary faculty comprising multiple and synergistic disciplines such as social care, geography, epidemiology, computer science; and enriching and extending the UK’s Big Data research network through the development of a new cadre of innovative, well grounded, data intensive social science researchers capable of translating and applying their academic foundation to a variety of career pathways.
The key course to prepare students for their doctoral programme at the 1+ stage is an MSc in Social Research Methods, including core modules in research skills for all social scientists (research skills, data collection, quantitative and qualitative research methods, and ethics), and two subject-specific modules drawn from the MSc in Health Data Science: Scientific Computing in Healthcare; and Health Data Modelling. Once within their +3 doctoral training programme, and depending on the focus of their project, students may take further modules from MSc programmes in: Health Data Science; Health Informatics; Social Research Methods. Doctoral students work alongside a large cohort of professional data analysts, and attend the monthly meetings of the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) user group, where data issues and achievements are discussed. They attend regular seminars (e.g. those run by the Population Patient and Health Informatics group) and a yearly postgraduate research week held within Swansea University Medical School, where they present both a poster and an oral presentation.