Hackathons should be renamed to avoid negative connotations

Article by Alison Paprica, Kimberlyn McGrail and Michael J. Schull: “Events where groups of people come together to create or improve software using large data sets are usually called hackathons. As health data researchers who want to build and maintain public trust, we recommend the use of alternative terms, such as datathon and code fest.

Hackathon is a portmanteau that combines the words “hack” and “marathon.” The “hack” in hackathon is meant to refer to a clever and improvised way of doing something rather than unauthorized computer or data access. From a computer scientist’s perspective, “hackathon” probably sounds innovative, intensive and maybe a little disruptive, but in a helpful rather than criminal way.

The issue is that members of the public do not interpret “hack” the way that computer scientists do.

Our team, and many others, have performed research studies to understand the public’s interests and concerns when health data are used for research and innovation. In all of these studies, we are not aware of any positive references to “hack” or related terms. But studies from Canadathe United Kingdom and Australia have all found that members of the public consistently raise hacking as a major concern for health data…(More)”.