University of Wisconsin–Madison

New Faculty Profile: Dr. Ian Hutchins

B. Ian HutchinsDr. Ian Hutchins is proud to be a returning Badger. He earned both a B.S. in Genetics and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UW-Madison, and his expertise in scientific research has heavily influenced his success in the information and data sector. While working at the National Institutes of Health, he developed the Relative Citation Ratio, a metric used to measure influence at the article, rather than the journal, level. This is an innovative approach to evaluating scientific influence, potentially diversifying the science fields. He will use his experiences and research to inform science policy at the iSchool.

Educational/professional background:

My graduate and postdoctoral training is in neuroscience. In 2013, I changed careers into professional data science to help the federal government improve science policy, by creating new scientific portfolio analysis methods.

What is your area of focus?

I use computational approaches to quantify scientific advance, and identify potential opportunities to improve the organization and effectiveness of the biomedical research enterprise.

What question do you seek to answer in your work?

Scientific career incentives and institutional policies result in a lot of good work, but also a lot of wasted time and resources, and attrition among aspiring scientists. Data science approaches can identify ways to improve the scientific enterprise, accelerate discovery, and advance medical treatments.

One of the most challenging things that biomedical scientists must to do is predict, when choosing which research projects to pursue, which of the many possible projects are most likely to lead to improvements in human health. Part of my work is aimed at building predictive analytics systems that can tell us more about what distinguishes projects that end up moving the needle in health outcomes from those that do not, so that this information can help in decision-making.

What is one thing you hope students who take a class with you will learn?

The data and information sciences represent a great toolkit for analyzing problems and supporting decision-making, and it’s a toolkit that creative and innovative people have a lot of fun using.

What attracted you to UW-Madison?

As a native Wisconsinite, I’m incredibly proud of our state’s public university system, and especially its flagship campus here. I’m thrilled to be returning to UW-Madison.

How does your work relate to the Wisconsin Idea?

My work supports open science initiatives, which ensures that the general public has access to biomedical research data. For example, I spearheaded the COVID-19 Portfolio, which gives members of the public timely access to the latest COVID-19 studies. Wisconsin residents deserve this kind of access to biomedical research findings, especially since the pandemic began, which gets right to the heart of the Wisconsin Idea.

Anything else you’d like to share?

On, Wisconsin!