New York, NY – “Using big data to understand the human condition.” A sentence we’re accustomed to hearing and a trend we’re following in 2017. But what does it really mean and what’s in it for us?

Before we attempt to answer that, consider this.

What if you were asked, alongside 10,000 other humans, adding up to 4,000 households, to give access to everything you do for 20 years? A new study out of New York University is asking just that – with hopes of fueling a new research platform to help solve some of life’s biggest problems – like Alzheimer’s and what long-term health complications really exist due to air-pollution – all leading to new solutions that in the end will improve the lives of millions.

The Human Project is an initiative set to gather data from 10,000 willing participants. Data such as blood samples, credit card swipes, personal financial data and cellphone data (read: texts), just to name a few. Researchers will be given access to the data with one caveat – they must use the project’s on-site computer systems that are not connected to the Internet…and they cannot take any of the data with them.


But has this ever been done before? Why yes, a similar study launched back in 1948 and it linked the dangers of smoking and heart disease – you can read more about it here – The Framingham Heart Study.

"If we could be seen as having contributed to American health care and well-being and education in the United States in the way that Framingham did, but magnified a hundredfold by the tools of today’s data, what a fantastic accomplishment that would be." - Project director Dr. Paul Glimcher, a New York University neural science, economics and psychology professor.

Why This Matters –

As mentioned, Big Thick Data is a trend we’re following this year and The Human Project attempts to hit the mark on not only the what, but more importantly the why. This study will produce amazing insights on why people do what they do and will give researchers a platform to identify new theories and solutions.

It will also be exciting to see how research from this study can help paint a clearer picture around what social influences motivate our decisions. A topic our inVentiv Health Behavioral Insights team recently revealed at a Cannes Lions Health session. You can read more about that study here.

So much like donating your body to science to better humans in the future – would you give over your family’s personal data over the next 20 years for science? I know in my household, that question would be met with plenty of anxiety and hesitation – but something tells me Dr. Paul Glimcher and his team won’t have trouble filling his need for this study. 

About the Author:

As Strategist of Innovation, Drew is charged daily with championing innovative thinking and doing. Drew is part of a global team that leads new innovative ideas that attract different advocates among existing and potential brands that are shared across all agency partners. Drew is backed by over 16 years of brand, sales and marketing experience with Fortune 500 companies such as Progressive and Nationwide Insurance as well as Founder & President of his own healthcare insurance agency for 6 years. Most recently Drew was part of the agency team that launched Briviact for UCB, Foundation Medicine as well as key roles with Eli Lilly Oncology and Johnson & Johnson.