IRQ Articles

Executive director's column

07-25-2017 13:14

Research confidence

By Susan E. Sedory, MA, CAE | @SueSHz  Summer 2017

Fingers pushes button marked Innovation
IDEO founder and Stanford school creator David Kelley and his brother Tom Kelley, IDEO partner, recently published Creative Confidence, a book on unleashing the creativity that lies within each and every one of us. One of the stories they tell is something I’ve heard from other authors:

Ask elementary students, “Any artists here? Raise your hand.” And in kindergarten, everybody is an artist. Not just an artist, but a two-hands artist: “Me! Me! Me! I’m an artist!” By the first grade, it was still 100 percent, but it was with one hand. Then it progressed. By sixth grader, you’ll get two or three people raising their hands, nervously looking around like everyone was going to think they were weird.

I see a lot of similarities between this story about being creative and what it means to be a researcher. Like creativity, I believe that everyone is innately curious and that researchers are just curious people who act. Like artists, they often they don’t succeed or face skeptics who judge their ideas as far-flung or too hard. Further, it takes a certain level of research confidence to sell others on your ideas—grantors, mentors, supervisors, patients, family.

Couple this with everything you are hearing and reading about “big data.” Regardless of how you define it, there is no question that we are amassing unprecedented amounts of information—both through the internet of people and the internet of things. And in case you’re skeptical about the value of big data, consider this: in 2013, the Washington Post sold for $250 million. Around that same time, Google bought a relatively unknown traffic app, Waze, for $1.1 billion. The difference—data.

In a 2016 perspective article in New England Journal of Medicine, Ziad Obermeyer and Zeke Emanuel contemplate how big data, machine learning and clinical medicine will align to transform medicine. One example contemplates the displacement of radiologists and anatomical pathologists.

The good news they offer is that data is useless without algorithms and research will be more accessible than ever to those who adapt to new statistical and research tools.

The even better good news for us is that the clinical nature of IR already requires you to have the skills needed manage the kind of complex data Obermeyer and Emanuel see: “from macro-level physiology and behavior to laboratory and imaging studies and, increasingly, ‘omic’ data.”

So what's the connection to IR? We know that innovation and research are not just necessities in IR, but hallmarks of the specialty. Adding big data into that mix can continue to set IR doctors apart from the rest. As in many things, I see great opportunity for IR and SIR in this realm, if IRs move beyond celebrating their early roots as pioneers in the frontier of image-guided medicine to confidently embracing the reality that constant new data makes all IRs into researchers—every day—in common procedures through the most complicated interventions.

As you read through this issue of IRQ, I also hope you’ll be amazed at the variety of ways SIR works to engage all IRs in research. I hope you’ll be excited learn from others and be inspired to use the SIR Connect community.

IRs are already innovation confident. Let’s also declare IRs research confident, 100 percent, two-hands researchers: “Me! Me! Me! I’m an IR researcher!”

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