The first international workshop on surgical data science

Surgical data science workshop: Discussion with World Café methodology. © Lena Maier-Hein, DKFZ

by Lena Maier-Hein

Surgical data science is an emerging scientific discipline with the objective of improving the safety, quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of surgical care by means of data acquisition, modelling, and analysis. The first international workshop on surgical data science (, funded by the Collaborative Research Center Cognition-guided Surgery and endorsed by ISCAS, was hosted by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg in June 2016. Its goal was to bring together researchers working on diverse topics in surgical data science in order to discuss existing challenges, potential standards and new research directions in the field. Inspired by current open space and think tank formats, it was organized in two days.

  1. Public day: The first part of the workshop was open to the public and attended by more than 70 participants from all over the world. On this workshop day, keynote lectures by leading experts in the field were complemented by short presentations of accepted workshop papers. A core component of the first workshop day were two interactive sessions. On the first day, a review of surgical data science was performed via brainwriting – a technique for gathering information, solving problems or generating ideas in a group. The purpose of the second interactive session was to discuss new strategies for advancing the field. This was achieved via the World Café methodology, a modern format for hosting large group dialogue (cf. Figure 1).
  2. Board meeting: On the second day of the workshop the board members of the workshop met with the goal of further processing the information gathered on the public day by (1) discussing remaining open issues, (2) deriving a joint definition for surgical data science and (3) proposing potential strategies for advancing the field.

The results of the discussions will soon be published in a white paper. One of my personal highlights was the ending of the public day. In an anonymous poll at the beginning of the workshop, we had asked the participants to say why they had attended. While the vast majority wanted to discuss/advance surgical data science and/or meet other scientists in the field, more than 20% of the participants chose the option “my advisor made me”. At the end of the workshop, however all participants agreed that the workshop should be repeated, (63%: in one year; 35%: in three years; 3%: in 5 years; 0%: never). Overall: It was fun! Lena Maier-Hein (on behalf of the workshop chairs)

The white paper from the workshop is available

Surgical data science workshop: Discussion with World Café methodology. © Lena Maier-Hein, DKFZ

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