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Recap of the Gateway’s Aging Research Hackathon 2023

Written by: Codi Young

Published on: Aug 16, 2023

#Cognition #Research-Hackathon #Aging

Gateway has had a busy summer this year. Not only has the Gateway team been busy with our harmonization and Policy Explorer projects, but members of our team have also been travelling internationally to hold workshops and attend conferences. More recently (and excitingly!), we hosted our first Aging Research Hackathon from July 31 to August 3 at the University of Southern California!

Aimed at early-career investigators interested in global aging data, we invited twenty-four participants from near and far to work collaboratively in teams to address two challenges: 1) Disparities in late-life cognition and dementia risk across race/ethnicity, gender, and urbanicity, and their underlying pathways; and 2) Cross-national comparisons of late-life cognition, dementia risk, and risk factors. Tapping into the HRS international network of studies and the Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) substudies (more specifically: HRS, HRS-HCAP, ELSA, ELSA-HCAP, MHAS, Mex-Cog, LASI, and LASI-DAD), our participants worked intensely over a span of four days to find and share insights using the large, rich, and complex aging data from these studies.

In addition to our participants, we also invited four coaches to guide and lead our seven teams: Dr. Alden Gross from Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Lindsay Kobayashi and Dr. Emily Briceño from the University of Michigan, and Dr. Erik Meijer from the University of Southern California. Kicking off Day 1 of the Hackathon, our four coaches prepared presentations to introduce cognitive aging and the HCAPs, discuss considerations for cross-country analyses of cognitive data, review best practices for comparative risk factor analyses, and briefly examine causality. For those who are interested, a recording of the talks and a PDF of all slides are also now available for download on our Webinars & Presentations page under the Additional Resources tab.

Throughout the first three days of the Hackathon, teams met with their coaches as they brainstormed and developed their research projects. These three days were focused on bringing together researchers from different backgrounds and expertise and provide a collaborative space to foster innovative ideas and address the challenges of aging. Coaches worked with teams to finalize their research questions, hypotheses, and rationale, and provided guidance on methodological issues encountered by teams as they began preliminary analysis work.

Despite the intensity of these three days, teams prepared culminating presentations to wrap up the Hackathon on Day 4. Presenting in front of the coaches and a panel of judges (Dr. Jinkook Lee and Dr. Dave Knapp from the University of Southern California, Dr. Ken Langa from the University of Michigan, Dr. David Richter from SHARE Berlin Institute GmbH, and Dr. Jürgen Maurer from the University of Lausanne), teams shared their progress and plans to continue their collaboration post-Hackathon. Each team participated in a brief Q&A session at the end of their presentations, where our coaches and judges provided suggestions and shared their own research experiences.

Although each team did great work and presented superb presentations, the Hackathon was still a competition, and our coaches and judges had the difficult task of selecting the best overall presentations. A HUGE congratulations to our first-place winners, Team Social and Economic Factors (Chihua Li, Ruijia Chen, and Sinead McLoughlin), and to our two runners-up, Team Urbanicity Group A (Olivia Atherton, Heidi Karjalainen, Yingyan Wu, and Lingzhi Chu), and Team Gender (Ryo Ikesu, Maud Wieczorek, Zhiyong Lin, and Peiyi Lu)!

Thank you to all our participants, coaches, and judges for making our first Research Hackathon a success! We hope everyone had a great experience and left with strong research projects and meaningful collaborations! We look forward to seeing everyone’s work published in the near future.


As always, reach out to our Hackathon email if you have any questions or feedback on what we can do to improve our next Hackathon. Make sure to stay connected to be in the loop for our future Gateway events!

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