R25 c-Scholar Program

Funding support is provided by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH Grant Number: R25AI164581).

The NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science suggests that a Big Data approach will uniquely advance our understanding of disease prevention, identification, control, and treatment in the coming decades and will be a key to reducing national and global health disparities. Despite the rapidly increased efforts in the applications of Big Data and Big Data analytics in health science research in recent years, the progress of translating the Big Data research findings to effective public health and clinical practices and improved health outcomes has been slow due to many challenges. Such challenges include the limited participation of community members in Big Data health science research and the lack of effective communication between the data science researchers and communities. As often a multi-stakeholder effort, health data science crosses boundaries between research and practice, as well as between science and health policy. The involvement of and communication with community becomes critical to fully realize the benefits of data science research.

Program Overview

To address the critical need outlined above, the USC BDHSC proposed “Big Data Health Science Community Scholar (R25 c-Scholar) program” to augment the parent R25 Big Data Heath Science Fellow program. Guided by a citizen science model, the R25 c-Scholar program will identify and train four community scholars from various governmental and community organizations and provide them with curriculum-based training, mentoring, and hands-on research experience. Specifically, this R25 supplement will (1) develop a citizen science approach in Big Data health science research training by identifying and recruiting community members who are interested in participating in Big Data infectious disease research and utilizing Big Data research findings to improve the health outcomes of their communities; (2) implement a multi-module community scholar training program that will provide mentoring, curriculum-based training, and hands-on research, so that community scholars would be better equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and competence for Big Data infectious disease research; and (3) train and support R25 c-Scholars in promoting and utilizing the Big Data research in their communities by developing or improving their necessary professional skills (e.g., health communication, presentation of scientific findings to the public, community outreach and engagement).


All R25 trainees will be US citizens or permanent residents. Individuals with disabilities or disadvantaged backgrounds defined by NIH NOT-OD-20-031 categories B and C will be strongly encouraged to apply.

Program Expectations

By the end of the R25 training, each R25 c-Scholar is expected to:

  • organize at least one community forum/town hall meeting to share the Big Data research findings with the community,
  • participate in a round table discussion of Big Data research in the USC annual Big Data Health Science conference,
  • submit a written report to reflect their experience and activities in promoting and utilizing the Big Data research in the community, and
  • continue their participation in data science research as community collaborators or in other appropriate capacity.
Benefits and Support

The program runs over the course of one year. The R25 c-Scholar program will provide the following support to each of the four R25 c-Scholars during the training year:

• Research incentives amounted $10,000
• Up to $2,000 to cover expenses in organizing community events to promote data science
• Up to $2,500 in support of attending national conference in health data science per scholar
• Curriculum-based training for skill development in big data research and professional development
• Hands-on research
• Mentoring in big data research and professional development

Program Schedule and Commitments

1. Interdisciplinary Mentoring

All R25 c-Scholars will be matched to one or more mentors following the two-way matching protocol that has been established and implemented in the parent R25 program. The R25 c-Scholar mentors will be drawn from the existing pool of multidisciplinary mentors in the parent R25 program.

1.1. Team Mentoring

The R25c-Scholars will receive team mentoring by participating in the funded Big Data research projects and interacting with trainees and mentors of the parent R25 program.

1.2. Mini-Retreats Between the parent R25 Fellows, R25 C-Scholars, and Their Mentors

This will bring all mentors and trainees together at the beginning of the program year. The introductory meeting will emphasize expectations, activities, events of the R25 programs and network building between the R25 Fellows, R25 c-Scholars, and their mentors.

1.3. Graduation Meeting

All R25 c-Scholars who have completed the one-year program will be asked to give an oral presentation (~15 min each) of their experience.

2. Curriculum-based Training

2.1. Didactic Training

All R25 c-Scholars should attend 24-hour curriculum-based didactic training (workshops or seminars) covering six major topics (“Introduction to Big Data”, “Big Data Analytics, “Big Data visualization and interpretation”, “Big Data and public health practice”, “Big Data and clinical practice”, and “Social and ethical issues in data science”).

2.2. Journal Clubs

R25 c-Scholars will attend the R25 journal clubs that are led by R25 Fellow, which will also provide opportunities for R25 Fellows and R25 c-Scholars to interact and develop long-term professional relationships in BDA for infectious diseases.

2.3. Professional Skills

Based on each scholar’s background and needs, the BDHSC will provide appropriate training in professional skills to support their efforts in promoting and utilizing Big Data research in their communities.

3. Hands-on Research Experience

Each R25 c-Scholar will be required to participate in ongoing infectious disease-related research that utilizes Big Data analytics (BDA). During the hands-on research, each trainee will work with one or more mentors from parent R25 and participate in the research activities of a funded Big Data project. R25 c-Scholars will be expected to contribute to the existing projects by participating in the existing research as a team member, initiating communication with the research team members, providing insights (from their own and their communities) on the research, and developing their own interest and future engagement in BDA research in infectious disease.

4. Community Activities

The R25 c-Scholars will be required to 1) organize community activities (e.g., town hall meeting or other forum) to promote and utilize BDA infectious disease research and its findings in their communities; and 2) attend the USC Big Data Health Science Conference that was launched by BDHSC in 2019. The trainees will participate in a round table session with a theme of how to improve community and population health using the Big Data research.

Individualized Development Plans

Upon the acceptance of the R25 c-Scholar offer, trainees will work with R25 PD/PI and their R25 mentors to develop an IDP, which will best meet their needs and experiences. The digitalized contract will document:

  1. Mentorship goals and outcomes, including the potential BDA research topics;
  2. Specific roles and expectations of mentors and trainees;
  3. Anticipated numbers/hours curriculum-based training;
  4. Plan for research engagement; and
  5. Plan for town hall meeting/presentation and participation of USC annual Big Data conference round table session.

These contracts will be unique to each trainee and tailored to their background and interests.

Application and Selection Procedure

For the first phase of the applications, individuals interested in the R25 c-Scholar program should submit a resume or CV via email expressing their interest, their capacity and/or potential in promoting and utilizing Big Data infectious disease research in the communities in R25 program to Dr. Banky Olatosi (olatosi@mailbox.sc.edu) by close of business on September 22, 2023.

The R25 Executive Committee (EC) will evaluate all applications and reach out to the finalists for additional documentation, including a letter from their employer or supervisor stating their approval and agreement for the applicant to participate in this one-year R25 c-Scholar program.

Important Dates

Application Deadline-First Phase: September 22, 2023
Selection of the Finalists: September 25, 2023
Document Submission Deadline for the Finalists: October 2, 2023
The Start of the R25c-Scholars Program: October 16, 2023

Contact Information

For questions related to various aspects of the R25 e-Scholar program, please contact any of the following individuals:

Xiaoming Li, Ph.D., xiaoming@mailbox.sc.edu

Jiajia Zhang, Ph.D., jzhang@mailbox.sc.edu

Bankole Olatosi, Ph.D., Olatosi@mailbox.sc.edu

Miranda Nixon, MA, mc95@mailbox.sc.edu

Community Scholars

Program Mentors

All R25 c-Scholars will be matched to one or more mentors following the two-way matching protocol that has been established and implemented in the parent R25 program. The R25 c-Scholar mentors will be drawn from the existing pool of multidisciplinary mentors in the parent R25 program.

Program Leadership

Xiaoming Li, PhD

Xiaoming Li, PhD

Program Director, Professor and Endowed Chair, Health Promotion, Education and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health

Jiajia Zhang, PhD

Jiajia Zhang, PhD

Program Co-Director, Professor and Biostatistics Division Director in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Arnold School of Public Health

Bankole Olatosi, PhD

Bankole Olatosi, PhD

Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, Assistant Professor and MHA Program Director, Health Service, Policy and Management, Arnold School of Public Health

Miranda Nixon

Miranda Nixon

Program Coordinator, Managing Director, USC Big Data Health Science Center