When Big Data Isn’t Big Enough image

Ampersand, May 20, 2016
Elise Davis

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Elise Davis of PRIM&R attended the Petrie-Flom Center's 2016 Annual Conference on "Big Data, Health Law, and Bioethics" on May 6, 2016. From her review at PRIM&R's blog Ampersand

Throw the phrase big data out at Thanksgiving dinner and you’re guaranteed a more lively conversation. Your nervous uncle is terrified of the Orwellian possibilities that our current data collection abilities may usher in; your techie sister is thrilled with the new information and revelations we have already uncovered and those on the brink of discovery. Many people likely feel a mix of both these sentiments: enthusiasm tempered by apprehension.

Big data is bringing about change in a variety of sectors, and the health research field is one area where the potential, both positive and negative, is the most dramatic. The recent event, Big Data, Health Law, and Bioethics, hosted by the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School convened leading scholars to discuss what we have to gain, what could go wrong, and how we should prepare for a future where big data health research is the norm.

One of the most fascinating panels of the day was titled Overcoming the Downsides of Big Data. Efthimios Parasidis, Sharona Hoffman, Sarah Malanga, and Carmel Shachar spoke, Glenn Cohen moderated, and we, the audience, began siding more and more with that nervous uncle. [...]

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bioethics health information technology health law policy human subjects research privacy public health