‘The Only Way is Ethics’

The Only Way Is Ethics – I’m not sure everyone got the reference at the end of my presentation – or maybe pretended they didn’t? – but whether the audience were reality show fans or not, there was a general consensus that when it comes to the Big Data picture, the only way forward is an ethical one.

And with that comes huge responsibility, but even greater rewards.

Held in the lecture theatre at the hugely-impressive new Nexus building on the University of Leeds’ campus, the Festival of Ideas closing session discussed international collaboration between academia and industry in action. But what are the desired outcomes of these collaborations? A question Nexus Director, Dr Martin Stow, challenged us to consider.

Better patient care, alongside improved lifelong learning throughout the NHS, seemed like a good answer and both are the core objectives of the research and development work we’re currently undertaking with the Leeds Institute of Medical Education (LIME), Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Health Education England (HEE).

Conceived at our IMC BA head office in Toronto, Canada, but born in Leeds and now nurtured in the Nexus research and innovation hub, our new start-up Scaled Insights is collaborating with HEE and LIME, who are contributing towards a vision for a “personalised NHS learning hub”. Using big data to forecast future actions and human insights to better understand what motivates us, we’re aiming to help the NHS deliver better training for nurses, doctors and medical practitioners across the country.

Panel at the Festival of Ideas closing plenary

Pictured left to right: Barry Singleton Director of IMC BA in Canada and Scaled Insights in Leeds , Dr Alicja Piotrkowicz Leeds Institute of Medical Education and a Wellcome Trust ISSF Fellow and Dr David McKee University of Leeds and Chief Technical Officer Slingshot Simulations

It was an honour to share the speaker platform with Dr Alicja Piotrkowicz (Leeds Institute of Medical Education and a Wellcome Trust ISSF Fellow, Twitter: @a_piotrkowicz), who is a vital contributor to this interdisciplinary project. Referring to the Topol Review, which stresses the need for digital upskilling in the UK healthcare workforce, she said that we needed to motivate and support people to enable lifelong professional learning in the NHS. That is our key desired outcome.

It’s also my ambition to expand those motivational models into solving more societal problems, particularly in Public Health – from stopping smoking, to problem gambling and one that impacts on me personally, having a family history of Type 2 diabetes, improving diet and exercise. Research suggests that tackling obesity, for example, is far more complex than simply eating less and moving more. Understanding what motivates a human being to embrace behavioural change through research will help us to unlock greater insights, resulting in “tuned nudges” that resonate with the message recipient.

We were also joined on the speaker platform by Dr David McKee (University of Leeds and Chief Technical Officer of scalable technology and services solutions spin-out Slingshot Simulations Twitter: @SlingshotSims @davidmckee0), who we’ve worked with on other industry-wide behavioural analytics projects.

It was fascinating to hear about the vast range of challenges he’s tackling – including how to develop trust in autonomous vehicles, working out the healthiest way to travel to work, improving aircraft safety and minimising the vast amounts of heat generated by data centres.

All collaborative working projects. All combining world-class research and innovation expertise with specific business skills and vision: the ethos behind Nexus, which is fostering a great spirit of creativity and collaboration – a true community. I’m looking forward to meeting more like-minded businesses and experts in other fields to generate more ideas and more collaborations.

Some of them might even share my predilection for popular references – the only way is up.

Barry Singleton, Nexus Member and Director of IMC BA in Canada and Scaled Insights in Leeds, was a guest presenter in the closing plenary session of The Festival of Ideas. An annual event bringing together academia and industry for a day of discussion on the potential for collaboration, the Leeds University Business School event was delivered for the first time in partnership with Nexus.