ISS 2017 Program


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SS1.3: What is Data Science and How Will it Impact Rehabilitation Science?

Data Science is operationally defined as using computer-based systems and processes to analyze large amounts of data and extract knowledge from them.1  At its core Data Science is the study of: 1) where information comes from, 2) what it represents, and 3) how it can be turned into knowledge that benefits human well-being.  Data Science is an interdisciplinary field in which structured or unstructured information is examined using methods associated with statistics, data mining, predictive analytics, bioinformatics and model simulation.2  There are similarities between Data Science and Rehabilitation Science.  Both are interdisciplinary, both involve the analyses and application of different forms of data, and both use a constantly changing combination of analytical and investigative approaches.3  To become partners in the emerging field of Data Science, rehabilitation scientists and practitioners must expand their research portfolio.  The presentation will describe potential steps in building research capacity to use “Big Data” in addressing questions relevant to seating and mobility.4 The distinction between Large Data and Big Data will be discussed and opportunities involving the secondary analyses of data repositories and data sharing will be examined.


Learning Objectives



Kenneth J. Ottenbacher, PhD, OTR
University of Texas Medical Branch
Galveston, Texas
United States

Dr. Kenneth J. Ottenbacher holds the Russell Shearn Moody Distinguished Chair in Neurological Rehabilitation at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). He is Professor and Director of the Division of Rehabilitation Sciences in the School of Health Professions. He is also Director of the Center for Recovery, Physical Activity and Nutrition, and Associate Director for the Sealy Center on Aging. Dr. Ottenbacher received his PhD from the University of Missouri- Columbia and is a licensed occupational therapist.

Dr. Ottenbacher began his academic career in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Wisconsin - Madison and worked through the ranks from assistant professor to professor. He went to the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1990 serving as Associate Dean for Research and Academic Affairs in the School of Health Related Professions, Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy, Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, and Associate Director of the Center for Functional Assessment Research in the Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation. In 1995, he joined UTMB as Vice Dean and Professor in the School of Allied Health Sciences (now School of Health Professions).

Dr. Ottenbacher's current research involves using large datasets to study rehabilitation outcomes with a focus on functional assessment, disability and frailty in older adults. He has published more than 300 articles in refereed journals. Dr. Ottenbacher has received continuous federal funding as principal investigator to support research and training since 1984. He has been the recipient of numerous awards for his research and service including fellow status in the American Occupational Therapy Association, the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, and the Gerontological Society of America (Health Sciences Division).


(Link) Additional information about Kenneth J. Ottenbacher



    1. Roebuck K. Big Data. New York: McGraw Hill; 2011.
    2. Roski J, Bo-Linn GW, and Andrews TA.  Creating value in health care through Big Data: Opportunities and policy implications.  Health Aff 2014;33:1115-1122.
    3. Boslaugh S. Secondary Data Sources for Public Health: A Practical Guide. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK; 2007.
    4. Pietrobon R, Guller U, Martins H, Menezes AP, Higgins LD, Jacobs DO. A suite of web applications to streamline the interdisciplinary collaboration in secondary data analyses. BMC Med Res Method. 2004;4(1):29.

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