What are Pathfinder Studies?

Pathfinder Projects enhance the teams’ capabilities in capturing their research methodologies, data and analytical processes and overall strengthen the host studies’ outputs and impact.  

You will join a global team, which can also learn from your experience! This new method is designed as an “add-on” study, which we call a “Pathfinder Project”, wherein teams track and map the data science process in their “host” study. See the Pathfinder Tracker under Current Resources to Support Pathfinder Projects for information on how to track and map processes. 

Why are Pathfinder Projects important? 

Diseases and health conditions require a lot of data generated from different health research studies or patient records to facilitate effective prevention, management and treatment. It is often the case that health-research-data collection, capture and analysis is not undertaken in many settings because they deem research – especially data science elements – to be difficult for them and their teams. However, it is well documented that there are common areas of difficulty experienced either directly in undertaking data science methods, or indirectly in the environment that supports the data research cycle. There is an opportunity to learn from others’ experiences in order to initiate a successful research project. 

Host Project: 

  • May already be completed, be underway or currently being planned or designed, with the pathfinder study adding benefits for all three types

  • May have large or small datasets 

  • Should be addressing a public health research question, and may come from a variety of health fields using different methodologies, e.g. clinical trials, epidemiological research, biomedical laboratory-based research or social sciences 

  • Does not need to be traditional research study; a host study can be a operational project, a post-marketing trial, a simple descriptive study, a policy brief, a community brief, etc. What is important is mapping its process. 

Pathfinder study: 

  • Will focus on public health challenges identified as a strategic priority, such as infectious diseases and maternal and child health

  • Will be used to inform and shape the development of a data sharing road map at an institutional level

Ultimately, Pathfinder Projects will identify barriers within the data cycle and provide solutions that can be shared, used, and adapted by other health research teams to accelerate their own research.