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An Oxford-based international online project to tackle antibiotic resistance has picked up a national health research award.

Dr Philip Fowler

BashTheBug, an initiative funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), brings together volunteers from all over the world to take part in the online research study, which has looked at hundreds of thousands of tuberculosis samples.

On Monday (4 September), the NIHR announced that BashTheBug had won the online community category in its Let’s Get Digital competition.

On learning of the news, Dr Philip Fowler, Senior Researcher at the NIHR Oxford BRC who leads the project, said: “Thank you NIHR! This award recognises all the hard work done by our more than 6,000 citizen scientists through the Zooniverse online community.

“In five months they’ve classified almost 350,000 images of M. tuberculosis growing on a range of antibiotics which help us improve the diagnosis of TB.”

Dr Fowler, who is based at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, is a computational biophysicist working in infectious diseases.

The NIHR praised BashTheBugwhich was only launched in April 2017, for its engaging and creatively designed citizen science project and for keeping the public and participants regularly updated via a blog and Twitter.

BashTheBug was one of five shortlisted entries, all of which were reviewed by an expert judging panel and subject to a public vote.

The panel liked the way this community is brought together by people actually taking part in a research study, and was impressed with its reach and the number of interactive ways to get involved.

Expert judge Verity Cardenas, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Programme Manager at Google, said: "I really like the active engagement of users on the website with a step by step understanding of what is required of a volunteer. This gives me a feel for what it is like to be involved in clinical research."

The Let’s get Digital competition aims to demonstrate the interesting digital methods that people across the NIHR can use to promote research, and reward those that are already doing it successfully.

The organisers are looking “to capture why NIHR research is important and exciting” and to show “how vital it is to the development of new and better treatments in the NHS”.

The competition, which was brand new for this year, aimed to promote and recognise the ways people funded and supported by the NIHR can ‘get digital’ with their research, whilst raising awareness of research at the same time. Entries were invited across five categories - video, photo, infographic, online community and website.

The 165 entries to the competition, and 2,251 public votes, demonstrate the value of digital when it comes to engaging with research. You can still get involved in the campaign by promoting BashTheBug and the other winning entries as excellent examples of making research accessible in innovative, digital formats. All the shortlisted and winning entries can be found here.   



The NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (OxBRC) is based at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and run in partnership with the University of Oxford, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The Oxford Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) is licensed by NHS England. It brings together universities, industry and the NHS to improve prosperity in our region through rapid channel innovation adoption.

Oxford University Innovation is the research and technology commercialisation company of the University of Oxford. It provides access to technology from Oxford researchers through intellectual property licensing, spinout company formation and material sales, and to academic expertise through Oxford University Consulting.

The Oxford Academic Health Science Centre (Oxford AHSC) coordinates clinical and academic excellence within Oxford University, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.



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