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The use of data, evidence and digital tools in healthcare and policy takes a major stride forward with the official launch of the Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science and appointment of Ben Goldacre as Bennett Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine

Lots of numbers and people. © Shutterstock

Named in recognition of a generous donation from the Peter Bennett Foundation, the new Bennett Institute is based within the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford.

The Bennett Institute builds on a foundation of world-leading healthcare data science from the DataLab at the University of Oxford. It brings together a diverse group of academics from a range of disciplines, including clinicians, software engineers, policy experts and statisticians. Together, as the Bennett Institute, they will develop, use and evidence new tools and methods that will ensure data and evidence can have impact in the world, improving the lives of patients and citizens.

The newly appointed ‘Bennett Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine’, Professor Ben Goldacre, is also the inaugural director of the Bennett Institute.

 Professor Goldacre says:
‘I am delighted and excited to be given the opportunity to lead the Bennett Institute in this new professorial role. Data and evidence have proven power to transform lives. The founding of the Bennett Institute will help us accelerate our work, innovate more flexibly, and develop broad collaborations outside of medicine.’

 Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor, University of Oxford says:
The experience of the pandemic has demonstrated the centrality of both data and evidence, not only in shaping sound government policies, but also in improving public health outcomes. Ben Goldacre and his team have shown just how important universities have been in contributing to the nation’s health and well-being.’

Professor Richard Hobbs, Head of the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences says:
‘The multidisciplinary DataLab team led by Ben Goldacre, have pioneered the use of routine data in novel and impactful ways on clinical care and policy, attracting this most generous donation from Peter Bennett. Their OpenPrescribing platform is used by very large numbers of clinical practitioners and NHS providers to improve prescribing practice. Very rapidly during the pandemic, the team delivered the world’s largest routine clinical dataset OpenSAFELY that helps answer key answers to how we better protect the public from the impacts of COVID-19.’

‘Our work has two defining features,’ says Professor Goldacre, ‘we stay close to work that directly improves the lives of citizens and we share all our work under open-source licenses, for review and re-use by all. It is great to see strong support for this open, practical ethos and we look forward to proving its power over the coming years.’

Professor Goldacre also engages more broadly with policy makers. He is currently leading a review for the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on improving the use of NHS data. He has given evidence on numerous occasions to diverse parliamentary select committees including the Public Accounts Committee (Tamiflu), Science and Technology (withheld clinical trials, reproducibility), Health (privacy and electronic patient data), and Culture Media & Sport (libel).

Alongside this he also works in public engagement, writing and broadcasting for a general audience on problems in evidence-based medicine. A best-selling author, his books have sold over 600,000 copies and his TED talks have had over 4 million views. While being accessible to a general audience, these lectures and books are also used in university teaching around the world.

The new Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science at the University of Oxford is the latest academic effort supported by The Peter Bennett Foundation, founded in 2013 by Peter Bennett in order to achieve positive change for communities around the world.

Peter Bennett says:
‘More than ever before, we now have access to vast amounts of data. We have a responsibility to use, analyse, develop and apply this data in an ethical way to promote change for good – with an emphasis on targeting the right kind of growth and achieving levelling up in society. I am deeply passionate about the tools that data science can provide us with to facilitate positive change in a systemic way.

‘The Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science is poised to innovate and lead the way in changing the face of data science, in the realm of public health, in the public policy sphere more widely and across all disciplines and sectors.’

Visit the Bennett Institute here.

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