Wellcome Data Prizes: how can we use data to transform mental health interventions?

Wellcome will be running a series of data prizes to use the power of data to transform how science solves urgent health challenges facing everyone. Our first data prize will look at anxiety and depression for young people. 

Two people painting and looking at devices, illustration.

Ellice Weaver / Wellcome

Wellcome Data Prizes will be an opportunity for multidisciplinary teams to receive seed funding and support to help them use existing data to tackle important research questions around three urgent health challenges: climate and health, infectious disease and mental health. 

Using data that already exists, participants will co-create digital solutions such as new software packages, algorithms or scripts, which help address the health problem in question. 

Our first data prize is a joint initiative between two teams at Wellcome: Data for Science and Health and Mental Health. It will focus on transforming and improving mental health interventions for anxiety and depression in young people. We are very excited to be partnering with Social Finance(opens in a new tab) and DataKind(opens in a new tab), and look forward to benefiting from their experience on using data and technology for social impact.

Wellcome Data Prize in Mental Health 

We’re currently working behind the scenes to prepare the launch of the first Wellcome Data Prize in Mental Health, which we expect to be open for applications in spring 2022.

With our first data prize, we want to:

Gain fresh insights from existing data 

We will use existing data related to mental health to understand which ‘active ingredients(opens in a new tab)’ prevent, treat, stop relapse or manage ongoing anxiety and depression in young people (aged 14-24). Throughout the set-up phase in 2021, we will identify and secure access to relevant data sources. We will prioritise datasets that offer insights into a variety of areas of young people’s lives and those which could improve our understanding of the social and environmental context of mental health.

We are interested in any data that could be used in a new way to understand what could work for anxiety and depression in young people. This includes data sources created from within as well as outside of academia, such as those which contain data on medication use, access to green space, financial situation, cognitive processes, genetics and personal relationships.

Build a multidisciplinary mental health data community

We want this data challenge to serve as the perfect example of how people with mental health research backgrounds, data expertise and lived experience can work together to create solutions for youth anxiety and depression. We will involve people with lived experience because this can help present important, and often missing, insight within the mental health landscape. Young people’s priorities will be at the heart of the data prize’s scope and design, as well as during the co-creation of digital tools. 

Create trustworthy digital tools with tangible impact

Our goal is to create open source, digital tools that have a real impact on youth anxiety and depression. We aim to produce a blueprint on how trustworthiness can be embedded in the creation of digital tools for mental health; and to successfully balance the needs for privacy of those sharing their data with the needs of open science.  

Our design principles for Wellcome Data Prizes 

We have designed the Wellcome Data Prizes in a way that prioritises inclusivity, creativity and multidisciplinarity. These principles are embedded in the first Wellcome Data Prize in Mental Health and will form the foundation for how we run the next prizes.

Our goals are to:  

Reach out beyond the usual suspects

Solving urgent global health problems requires the right skills, lived experience, and different perspectives. Yet most research on health happens within established research communities and disciplines. We will reach out to people from beyond the usual networks interested in the issue; and we will bring together ideas from people with a range of perspectives, experiences and data-related skills. 

Put co-creativity at the heart

Our data prizes have been designed to make sure participation and involvement are at the centre of the projects we fund. We will value lived experience and partner with the communities we’re working with throughout the data prize.  

Raise awareness around the health challenge and inspire solutions

We will talk about our work openly, share what we’re learning, and the success stories and the difficulties we encounter throughout. We want to inspire policy and decision makers to think about possible digital approaches to solve health challenges.  

Get involved 

Over the next two months, as part of our initial scoping phase, we will work with Social Finance and DataKind to explore the possibilities of running Wellcome’s Data Prize in Mental Health in India or South Africa, in addition to the UK. We will be reaching out to relevant communities in these countries to inform this scoping phase.

Get in touch at ContactDataForScienceAndHealth@wellcome.ac.uk if you think the objectives of the Data Prize in Mental Health are relevant to your network or may know of data sources aligned with our aims.

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