Biomedical data challenges are interdisciplinary live or virtual competitive events that require participants to analyze big biomedical data and develop prototype solutions to real-world problems that accelerate innovation of medical applications, improve healthcare technology design, and help streamline healthcare business models Wang, et al., 2018. Participation in biomedical data challenges helps current and future health professionals identify, consider, and develop solutions to challenges associated with how big biomedical data influences patient well-being, and data challenges are particularly useful for illustrating issues associated with the underuse of uniform data standards and with navigating siloed data. However, data challenges are often criticized for promoting a culture unwelcoming to 92 and underrepresented minorities by fostering an overly competitive environment; for using a format that potential participants might find unappealing--i.e. staying up for days on end; and for lacking in diversity, which leads to feelings of otherness Decker, et al., 2015. In 2016, Purdue University Libraries launched the Biomedical Big Data Hacking for Civic Health Awareness Project to help alleviate these issues by offering inclusive biomedical data challenges that leverage current interest in data competitions and extend that appeal to members of groups commonly underrepresented in data challenges. The project has succeeded in its goal. Across its 2.5 years of offering data challenges, 28% of total participants have been either health professionals or students majoring in a health sciences discipline, 38% of attendees have been 92, and 46% have been members of a racial minority group. However, the project has seen a high rate of attrition amongst the number of participants who register for the challenges and the number of participants who submit final projects. Similar rates of attrition have been observed amongst participants in other data challenges, for example, in business case competitions where participants are tasked with analyzing health-related data to develop a marketing plan. As the Biomedical Big Data Hacking for Civic Health Awareness Project continues, we seek to understand the success factors that motivate students to complete data challenges and to understand what factors lead to failure, in hopes of improving attrition rates.

Project Details

Organization Name

Purdue University - Library of Engineering & Science

Organization Type
Academic institution
Health sciences library
Project Lead

Bethany McGowan

Start Date
May 1, 2019
End Date
April 30, 2021
Funding Amount
Data Resource or Tool Developer
Data Scientist
Health care Provider
Library or Information Professional
Public Health Professional
Student, College & Post-grad
Adults (19-64 yrs.)
Adults (19-64 yrs.)
Blacks/African Americans
Alaska Natives
American Indians
Asians/Asian Americans
Hispanics/Latin Americans
Native Hawaiians
Other Pacific Islanders