Stevens, Marthe, MSc.

“Big buzz”? An empirical and intervening study on the role of big data in healthcare

Institute of Health Policy & Management (iBMG), Erasmus University Rotterdam,

Supervisors: Dr. Antoinette de Bont and Dr. Rik Wehrens


In 2011 I obtained my propedeutics in Medicine at Utrecht University. Thereafter, I did an internship at the Rathenau Institute in The Hague. In 2012, I started with a bachelor in Health Policy and Management and a bachelor in Philosophy of Medicine at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. After my graduation in 2015, I did the master Health Economics, Policy and Law at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, in which I focused on health policy. After obtaining my master degree in 2016, I started working at the Institute of Health Policy & Management (iBMG) as PhD candidate in health care governance.


Big data raise high expectations in the healthcare sector. It is thought that big data will offer immense opportunities and will radically change the way care is provided and research is being conducted. As a result, big data would lead to more personalized, efficient and effective medical care. Yet, critics emphasize that the big data developments are being exaggerated and that, for example, security and governance issues should first be solved.

This PhD research will position itself between the utopian expectations and the criticisms that surround big data, by doing in-depth empirical research into the practices of big data. The goal is to ethnographically explore what big data is, what role it has and can have in healthcare. In addition, this research will help shape and when necessary intervene, in the big data developments. The sheer volume, velocity and variety of data make it hard to study big data ethnographically. Therefore, this study will also explore how something as obscure as big data, can be studied ethnographically.