Crowdsourced Solutions from the Second Annual Data Science Bowl Result in Algorithm That Could Transform Heart Disease Diagnosis

Data scientists use Artificial Intelligence to achieve in seconds what takes a skilled cardiologist up to 20 minutes

MCLEAN, Va.--()--With the close of the second annual Data Science Bowl, Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE: BAH) and Kaggle proved yet again that crowdsourced solutions can be used to solve some of our world’s most complex problems. This year, the focus was on heart health – an issue of critical importance worldwide. In the US alone, one person is diagnosed with heart disease every 43 seconds. Imagine being the person – the one waiting for the doctor to return with an MRI and your results. It’s a process that typically takes 20 minutes. Now, imagine sitting next to your doctor and receiving your results and prognosis in real-time. That’s what this year’s Data Science Bowl accomplished and why it was so incredibly successful.

The winners of the Data Science Bowl – people from all walks of life and careers – were challenged to automate the process of analyzing MRI images. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) provided the data for the competition, more than 1,000 MRI images from a broad sample set, including individuals of different ages and genders. Despite the diversity and complexity of the sample set, more than 993 participants responded to the challenge. Working individually and in teams, more than 1,390 algorithms were submitted for consideration. The winning algorithm was built by Qi Liu and Tencia Lee; hedge fund analysts and self-described quants who has no medical experience and yet were able to create an algorithm that had an accuracy rate on par with the human eye.

To do so, Liu and Lee used a technique known as deep learning, an area of machine learning research that enables this type of complex image and data analysis. It’s a relatively new technique, one that would not have been possible a few short years ago.

“We gave the data science community a challenge of unprecedented complexity and importance for the second annual Data Science Bowl,” said Josh Sullivan, senior vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton. “This particular challenge was one that the medical community had not been able to solve. It needed to harness the power of crowd-sourcing. The ability to bring together unique backgrounds, perspectives and expertise is what makes a data science team so effective and it’s what made the Data Science Bowl a success.”

Researchers at NHLBI will now begin working with the winning teams to test the accuracy of the algorithm in different clinical environments. If proven effective, the long term goal would be to integrate it into existing technology and make it readily available for doctors across the country, pending FDA approval.

“Analyzing MRI scans is traditionally an expensive and incredibly time-consuming process for doctors to do manually,” said Michael Hansen, Ph.D., a NIH specialist in fast MRI techniques for real-time imaging and interventional procedures. “If we are successful in automating the process, we open up new possibilities. It could decrease costs, initially, but also enable new studies and research trials which were traditionally considered too expensive or labor-intensive.”

Qi Liu and Tencia Lee met on Kaggle’s discussion forum. They were ranked eighth and ninth on the leaderboard, respectively, and decided that they were stronger together than apart.

“The Data Science Bowl was the second competition that I participated in on Kaggle’s platform,” said Lee. “What drew me to the challenges was its inherent complexity. The data set had a lot of quirks that required us to think through unique scenarios and redirect our algorithm multiple times. In the end, we came to a solution that proved viable for multiple data sets and we hope that it can have an impact on the way heart health is diagnosed.”

"This was one of the most difficult competitions that we’ve ever hosted on our site,” said Anthony Goldbloom, CEO, Kaggle. “And despite, or potentially because of, its complexity, the solving of this problem has resulted in a huge leap forward in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for medical purposes. While it's fun and scientifically interesting to build algorithms and AI processes that win board games and game shows, this competition has created an algorithm that can help us diagnose heart failure, the biggest killer in the United States."

The second place prize for this year was awarded to team Kunsthart from Ghent University, members of which placed first in last year’s Data Science Bowl. Third place has been awarded to Julian DeWit, a freelance software designer and regular contributor to Kaggle competitions. The top three individuals and teams will receive a financial reward relative to their position in the rankings and will be given the opportunity to present their results at the 2016 GPU Technology Conference (April 4-7, 2016, in San Jose, California), an annual event hosted by Data Science Bowl partner NVIDIA. They will also meet with principal researchers at NHLBI to discuss their approach.

The Data Science Bowl is a component of Booz Allen Hamilton’s continued support of data science education and awareness. The firm has also made a concerted effort to distribute industrywide best practices through its recently updated Field Guide to Data Science, a handbook that captures the discipline born of Booz Allen’s 600+ person data science team. In 2014, Booz Allen and Kaggle’s first annual Data Science Bowl challenged the global data science community to develop an algorithm that could measure oceanic health at a speed and scale never before possible, in partnership with the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State University.

For more information on the competition, please visit

About Booz Allen Hamilton

Booz Allen Hamilton has been at the forefront of strategy and technology for more than 100 years. Today, the firm provides management and technology consulting and engineering services to leading Fortune 500 corporations, governments, and not-for-profits across the globe. Booz Allen partners with public and private sector clients to solve their most difficult challenges through a combination of consulting, analytics, mission operations, technology, systems delivery, cybersecurity, engineering, and innovation expertise.

With international headquarters in McLean, Virginia, the firm employs more than 22,500 people globally, and had revenue of $5.27 billion for the 12 months ended March 31, 2015. To learn more, visit (NYSE: BAH)

About Kaggle

Kaggle is the world's largest online data science competition community. With more than 500,000 active members across 194 countries, the Kaggle community uses its diverse set of academic backgrounds to solve complex data science problems. Working as individuals or in teams, the winning competitors are awarded prizes and industry recognition for their accomplishments. The top competitors are invited to work on the most interesting and sensitive business problems from some of the world’s biggest companies through Masters Competitions.

About The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, provides global leadership for a research, training, and education program to promote the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, and blood diseases and enhance the health of all individuals so that they can live longer and more fulfilling lives. The NHLBI stimulates basic discoveries about the causes of disease, enables the translation of basic discoveries into clinical practice, fosters training and mentoring of emerging scientists and physicians, and communicates research advances to the public. It creates and supports a robust, collaborative research infrastructure in partnership with private and public organizations, including academic institutions, industry, and other government agencies. The Institute collaborates with patients, families, health care professionals, scientists, professional societies, patient advocacy groups, community organizations, and the media to promote the application of research results and leverage resources to address public health needs. The NHLBI also collaborates with international organizations to help reduce the burden of heart, lung, and blood diseases worldwide.



Booz Allen Hamilton
Kimberly West, 703-377-1403

Release Summary

Winners of the 2nd Annual Data Science Bowl have used Artificial Intelligence to achieve in seconds what can take a skilled cardiologist up to 20 minutes: analyzing a cardiac MRI image.


Booz Allen Hamilton
Kimberly West, 703-377-1403