Tracking transformation in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine

13 Apr 2021 - 16:15

Screenshot of Shiny Server App used by the transformation committee of the School of Public Health and Family Medicine to track changes in the demographics of the School over time.

Screenshot of Shiny Server App used by the transformation committee of the School of Public Health and Family Medicine to track changes in the demographics of the School over time.

The UCT Vision 2030 strategy rests on three key pillars: excellence, transformation, and sustainability. As part of the drive towards transformation, each department at UCT has a transformation committee whose mandate is to promote the actioning of practical steps towards faculty and university transformation plans. In the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, the transformation committee included people who, with the help of UCT eResearch, could bring their analytic skills to develop an application that, over time, tracks and displays the changing demographics of the school.

When it was first set up in 2015, one of the first things the School of Public Health and Family Medicine’s transformation committee identified was the need, over time, to monitor the demographic profiles of the staff and students at the school.

“Access to good data means that you can see where you are in the present, but also where you have gone over time, and whether you are closer to achieving your goal,” says Professor Landon Myer, head of UCT’s School of Public Health and Family Medicine.

Fortunately, members of the transformation committee had previously worked with UCT eResearch, and knew they could reach out to them for support in the development of a Shiny Server web application to track the transformation demographics of the school.

“The Shiny App works like an interactive computer-based dashboard, which allows the user to view summarised data and visualisations through a ‘point and click’ interface, without needing to view the raw data,” explains Associate Professor Maia Lesosky, Head of the Division of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, who supported the app’s development.

 

“Access to good data means that you can see where you are in the present, but also where you have gone over time, and whether you are closer to achieving your goal.”

Luke Hannan, a PhD researcher supervised by Lesosky, worked with UCT eResearch on the coding and development of the application.

“Once the dashboard was developed, we needed somewhere to host it online in a way in which people could access the dashboard but ensure the school maintains control of both the dashboard and the data,” says Hannan. For this, the transformation committee reached out to eResearch for support.

“Ashley Rustin of the eResearch team in ICTS was very helpful in providing and securing the back-end server that hosts the dashboard,” says Hannan.

This meant that members of recruitment committees and other relevant groups could easily access the app and see the demographic data visualisations, to make informed decisions based on complex information.

“These visualisations and analytics do not provide answers to questions,” says Myer, “and we cannot pretend that the application is transformative on its own. Just like any analytic tool it does not change things, but what it does is provide us with the information we need to drive the necessary change.”

 

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