Student Team Earns First Place in U.S. Health Data Platform Competition

Posted February 22, 2013
Four Graduate Students in the Tetherless World Constellation at Rensselaer Recognized for the Application They Developed in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Challenge

Four graduate students in the Tetherless World Constellation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently earned the top prize in a national health data platform challenge designed to create new functionalities for the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) repository for open health data:

The goal for students and others in the competition was to make high-value health data more accessible to entrepreneurs, researchers, and policy makers in the hopes of better health outcomes for all.

The four students won the $20,000 first prize in the Health Data Platform challenge designed by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within HHS. The students earned the honor in the so-called Metadata Challenge component of the competition, which was designed to facilitate the application of common metadata standards to all open government data.

“Our team leveraged many of the methodologies and tools from RPI’s Tetherless World and the Web Science Center to quickly integrate a wide range of data, maintain its provenance, and provide value by understanding not just the values in the data files but also what those values represent,” said Rensselaer Tetherless World Constellation Professor Deborah L. McGuinness. “The students worked well as a team to create a result that was much more impressive than any of them could do alone. They integrated their technical contributions and created an end-to-end process and tool suite that we are now using on other sets of data, so they not only contributed to HHS but also left behind a platform that others can use.”

The Rensselaer students developed an application that used what is known as the Application Programming Interface and the complete catalog of datasets on the federal website to create multiple resources for organizing data and automating many of the data processes. They presented a set of in-house developed tools enabling the discovery of, access to, and integration of HHS datasets as Linked Government Data.

The four Rensselaer graduate students are:

  • James McCusker – Computer Science graduate student
  • Timothy Lebo – Cognitive Science graduate student
  • Alvaro Graves – Cognitive Science graduate student
  • Kristine Gloria – Cognitive Science graduate student

McCusker and Lebo are students who study under McGuinness, while Graves and Gloria study under Tetherless World Constellation Professor Jim Hendler. McGuinness was the primary faculty member working with the students during the competition. John Erickson, director of web science operations within the constellation, also worked with the students, and Research Associate Professor Joanne Luciano contributed research. All are members of the Web Science Research Center at Rensselaer, which is directed by McGuinness.

Established in 2007, the Tetherless World Constellation at Rensselaer is working toward a vision of an increasingly Web-accessible world in which interactive information and communication is not “tethered” to one location or device such as a personal computer. The constellation is working to move toward this vision by seeking to better understand the World Wide Web, help engineer its future, and ensure its social benefits.