A Delphi study to build consensus on the definition and use of big data in obesity research

Christina Vogel, Stephen Zwolinsky, Claire Griffiths, Matthew Hobbs, Emily Henderson, Emma Wilkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: ‘Big data’ has great potential to help address the global health challenge of obesity. However, lack of clarity with regard to the definition of big data and frameworks for effectively using big data in the context of obesity research may be hindering progress. The aim of this study was to establish agreed approaches for the use of big data in obesity-related research. Methods: A Delphi method of consensus development was used, comprising three survey rounds. In Round 1, participants were asked to rate agreement/disagreement with 77 statements across seven domains relating to definitions of, and approaches to, using big data in the context of obesity research. Participants were also asked to contribute further ideas in relation to these topics, which were incorporated as new statements (n = 8) in Round 2. In Rounds 2 and 3 participants re-appraised their ratings in view of the group consensus. Results: Ninety-six experts active in obesity-related research were invited to participate. Of these, 36/96 completed Round 1 (37.5% response rate), 29/36 completed Round 2 (80.6% response rate) and 26/29 completed Round 3 (89.7% response rate). Consensus (defined as > 70% agreement) was achieved for 90.6% (n = 77) of statements, with 100% consensus achieved for the Definition of Big Data, Data Governance, and Quality and Inference domains. Conclusions: Experts agreed that big data was more nuanced than the oft-cited definition of ‘volume, variety and velocity’, and includes quantitative, qualitative, observational or intervention data from a range of sources that have been collected for research or other purposes. Experts repeatedly called for third party action, for example to develop frameworks for reporting and ethics, to clarify data governance requirements, to support training and skill development and to facilitate sharing of big data. Further advocacy will be required to encourage organisations to adopt these roles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2573-2586
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number12
Early online date17 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


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