Will Ball Research Fellow
University of Aberdeen
What does your job actually entail? My working pattern can be quite varied depending on where we are in the research process. I think I’m fortunate to be working as part of a smaller local team on a project that gives me a chance to give a lot of input and get involved in every stage. That means I’ve had extended periods focusing mostly on writing research plans and doing literature reviews, which then transitioned into actually writing the code (the fun bit!) and see the early results. We’re just concluding a phase of work so recently I have mostly been writing a paper and getting feedback from collaborators. We’re also coming up to the exciting part of sharing our findings outside of the team which means planning ways to communicate through the media, in blogs & on twitter.
When not at work you can be found...
I live on the beautiful coastline up in the North East of Scotland so I like to make the most of any nice weather to get outside with my family. We’re fortunate to live close to the sea, next to a forest and not too far from some nice hills so there is plenty to choose from. I’m a cyclist so have been enjoying some very un-Scottish warm weather this Spring and I’ve also recently started playing touch rugby again at my local club.
Why did you join the DSxHE community?
My main research interest is in understanding the mechanisms behind health inequalities, which can help to figure out the best policies to reduce them. I’ve also been using R in my research for a number of years and apply Data Science methods in my research with that interest in mind. I was really excited to see a group of diverse and like-minded people setting up a community and instantly wanted to join in!
What’s a recent article/book/video/blog/event you’ve come across on data science and/or health equity that you found interesting and why?
I often return to a book called Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey. It’s not specifically about health equity but provides an excellent overview of the wide-ranging effects of material and social deprivation. It draws heavily on Darren’s own lived experience, growing up in Pollok (Glasgow) and struggling with substance abuse and mental health. Voices like his aren’t often given a wide platform but this kind of testimony should be essential to our understanding of population health – especially when it’s so easy to disconnect numbers in a data table from the people they relate to.
What is your favourite board game?
We love a board game in my house so have plenty to choose from. I used to really enjoy co-operative board games like Pandemic but haven’t played that since the early part of 2020. Probably our most played game is Ticket to Ride but we also recently discovered a game about cycling called Flamme Rouge which is quite fun in you like game mechanics that match the theme.
What dish do you cook best?
I’m famous for making a chilli con carne from a recipe passed down from my dad. I grow my own chili peppers and really enjoy spicy food but often have to tone it down for others!
What makes you hopeful?
It’s really easy to get frustrated and feel pessimistic in the current political climate, particularly if you are interested in equity. I find a lot of hope in listening to young people and seeing how much more aware and considerate they are compared to when I was growing up, particularly around issues of sexuality and gender identity.