Microsoft accelerates next-gen health & life science
In an announcement made by Microsoft, Broad Institute and Verily, the three organisations have entered into a multi year partnership with Broad Institute and Verily to accelerate the next generation of the Terra platform for health and life science research.
As part of the partnership the three plan to accelerate innovations in biomedicine via the Terra platform. Terra was originally developed by Verily and the Broad Institute, it is a secure, scalable, open source platform for biomedical researchers to access data, run analysis tools and collaborate.
“The opportunity to partner with the Broad Institute and Verily in helping researchers around the world understand and treat our toughest human diseases is an honor. Through this partnership, we will apply the power of Microsoft Azure and its enterprise-grade capabilities in security and privacy, along with cutting-edge data and AI solutions like Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure Machine Learning and Azure Cognitive Services, to deliver on the vision of the Terra platform at a new level of scale,” commented Gregory Moore, M.D., Ph.D., corporate vice president of Microsoft Health Next.
This new partnership between Microsoft, Broad Institute and Verily aims to break through barriers by bringing together Microsoft;s cloud, data, AI technologies and global network to accelerate the development of global biomedical research, providing greater access and empower the open source community.
As part of the partnership the three organisations will:
- Expand Terra’s open, modular and interoperable research platform
- Increase Terra’s accessibility to the more than 168,000 health and life sciences organisations
- Enable secure and authenticated access to distributed data stores
- Allow access to a growing portfolio of open and proprietary standards-based tools, best practices workflows and APIs
- Enable federated data analysis
- Create seamless and secure flow to speed the delivery of data and insights
- Use open APIs and modular components to advance the standards-based biomedical data ecosystem
“We’re pleased to be working with Microsoft and Broad on this initiative. Our three organizations share the goals of improving patient care, driving innovation in biomedical research, and lowering costs across healthcare and life sciences. This partnership combines multimodal data, secure analytics and scalable cloud computing to improve insight and evidence generation, allowing us to ultimately impact more patients’ lives,” commented Stephen Gillett, chief operating officer at Verily.
“Both Microsoft and Verily share our vision for Terra as an open and collaborative ecosystem for the sharing and analysis of biomedical data. This partnership will allow us to make Terra even more useful and accessible across a broader set of researchers and industries,” added Clare Bernard, senior director of the Broad Institute Data Sciences Platform and product manager of the Terra platform.
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.