Lab Matters Summer 2018 - Page 4

president’s & executive director’s message It’s All About the Data At the 2018 Annual Meeting, Lab Matters Editor Gynene Sullivan had the opportunity to sit down and chat with incoming APHL President Joanne Bartkus and APHL Executive Director Scott Becker. Here is a transcript of the interview, which has been edited for clarity. Gynene Sullivan: Joanne, since you’re coming in as president, can you talk a little bit about your priorities for APHL? We need to integrate bioinformatics, knowledge management, laboratory systems, next generation sequencing, the way we process data, the way we share data, and the way we interact with partners to work with data. Joanne Bartkus, President, APHL Joanne Bartkus: This is a bit of an exaggeration but it came to me in a blinding flash one morning as I woke up: it’s about the data. Everything that we do centers on the data, the information and the knowledge that we provide to our partners to the public. If you look at APHL’s strategic map, there are a number of activities and priorities that are related to informatics and data science. My view is that we need to better unite informatics and “data science”—which I am defining as data manipulation that does not involve actually transferring data from one place to another. We need to integrate bioinformatics, knowledge management, laboratory systems, next generation sequencing, the way we process data, the way we share data, and the way we interact with partners to work with data. APHL has a lot to offer in these areas, and pulling it together into a more cohesive data strategy will help APHL figure out where we fit in and where we need to increase our partnerships. Scott Becker: We also need to consider data sharing from the legal and policy perspective. APHL is increasingly involved in this area as we grow our cloud computing capabilities and work with state agencies and national governments. The legal issues are pretty daunting, but we aren’t going to be able to tackle them until we make this a priority. Otherwise it’ll just sit on the (strategic) map and we won’t touch it. Thinking about it over the course of a year will be very helpful not just for APHL, but for all of our members and partners as well. Bartkus: I’m glad you reminded me about the policy piece. Data sharing and data use agreements are frequently a stumbling block for us. Being able to make the most effective use of the data that we 2 LAB MATTERS Summer 2018 generate and the data that we need to access is a big priority. Sullivan: How does this priority feed into planning for the next generation of laboratory scientists? Do you think that scientists are going to have to be more tech savvy than bench savvy in trying to fit technology and traditional testing methods together? Bartkus: Absolutely. And that’s something we’ve been talking about for years in my laboratory. Suppose that clinical laboratories, for example, start using more sophisticated methods where they might be doing their own DNA sequencing. Whereas currently the public health laboratory is doing (the sequencing), we might eventually just be receiving data and analyzing it as opposed to generating the raw data itself. So we’re going to be more involved in converting data into knowledge. Even though we do some of that now, I think it’s going to be a bigger area and it might even be a brand new skill set and job area. Where this new paradigm will sit is not clear, but right now I think laboratories are at the forefront of thinking about it. We’re already doing (the data analysis) with next generation sequencing but I think it’s going to be much more integral to our daily work. And we’ve joked around about referring to “labidemiologists” but we’re going to need to be doing more of the data analytics than we have in the past. It’s a different workforce and a different skill set. Becker: That’s absolutely true. I also think that the workforce coming in now is eager to take on a new skill. Millennials and Generation Z, who are just hitting our labs, are digital natives and this is how they think. It’s crucial that we build on their talents to develop strong science communicators. It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t really understand what bioinformatics was. And now we’re deeply involved and it’s just been a brief four PublicHealthLabs @APHL APHL.org