New poem celebrates data sharing

8 September 2016

The Infectious Diseases Data Observatory was officially launched on Wednesday 7 September as part of the Oxford Tropical Network meeting, an opportunity for those working in tropical medicine and global health to learn about each other’s work and forge new collaborations. 

We were privileged to be able to share a poem that was written by award-winning poet and journalist, Cameron Conaway, to help us celebrate the work of IDDO and commemorate the launch event.

Cameron was Poet in Residence at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Research Unit (MORU) in 2013, and subsequently wrote Malaria, Poems a collection that was named a Best Book of 2014 by NPR (National Public Radio) in America and was nominated for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. The book featured in The Washington Post for its ability to combine research, global health, and empathic, taut poetry into the first full-length book of poems thematically centered around malaria. 

Find out more about Cameron's work on his website, and read his new poem, Dance of the Data, below. The poem uses the Haibun genre - a combination of prose and Haiku. 

Dance of the Data

To commemorate the launch of the Infectious Diseases Data Observatory, 
7 September 2016

Somewhere, a child has slipped beyond saving
into a place where her mother’s dulcet voice
can’t soothe her.
 
Elsewhere, a study stays shadowed
rather than becoming part of the answer.
 
Everywhere, the silent illumination of data
waits for a gardener.
 
tend to minutiae
assemble it like fascia
mud grows the lotus
 
Always, there is the dance of the data—
a pas de trois between the unknown,
the uncaptured known, and the known.
 
Somewhere, a child has slipped beyond saving.
 
Elsewhere, a study stays shadowed.
 
Everywhere, the silent illumination of data
waits for a gardener.
 
magnify the small
and noticings become large
a mother’s dulcet voice
 
Always—to extract from datasets the inner
wisdom below the surface, often neglected
but still glistening—we must shuck seeing
for observing, hearing for listening.
 
Somewhere, a child.
 
Elsewhere, a study.
 
Everywhere, the silent illumination of data
waits for a gardener.
 
tiny little sprout
how you come from everywhere
but stay settled here
 
Always, from today on, we will honor
the lives behind the data by providing
the data a safe home, a chance to roam
beyond its origin, a chance to bloom
in the hands of researchers that realize
there’s an excess of closed access,
that the capacity to share is a gift to be
paid forward by unfurling as lotus
into the responsibility to share.
 
Somewhere.
 
Elsewhere.
 
Everywhere, the silent illumination of data
now has its gardener.
 
data is story
that only we can unwrap
a new pas de deux
 
Always, there will be spindrift—
and the N in NTDs will remain
until we replace it with the E
of Eradicated.
 
But here we are, planting our platform
in the mud, serving others by being
an anchor for the roots of their lotus.
 
by Cameron Conaway