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Ben Goldacre

Director of Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science

Ben is a doctor, academic, writer, and broadcaster. He trained in medicine at Oxford and UCL, in psychiatry at the Maudsley, and in epidemiology at LSHTM. His academic and policy work is in informatics, epidemiology and evidence based medicine, where he works on various problems including variation in care, better uses of routinely collected electronic health data, evidence-based social policy, access to clinical trial data, efficient trial design, and retracted papers.

He runs the Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science. This is a multidisciplinary team of academics, clinicians and software developers, all pooling skills and knowledge to turn large datasets into tools and services as well as pure academic research papers.

  • OpenSAFELY is a fully open source and highly secure analytics platform for NHS data created during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is currently executing code across an unprecedented scale of data: 58 million patients full raw GP records - 70 billion rows of information - linked onto various other sources including SGSS, SUS/HES, ECDS, ISARIC, ICNARC, ONS death, and more. All code for the platform, and for data management and analysis of each output, is shared under open licenses for review and re-use. OpenSAFELY has delivered a range of outputs in journals such as Nature, Lancet and the BMJ from a large national academic collaboration. 
  • OpenPrescribing is a live, freely accessible explorer for 8,000 individual NHS GP practices' prescribing data: it implements cutting edge data science techniques in a real working tool which serves over 150,000 unique users a year, and thousands of subscribers receiving regular context alerts on changes in their prescribing behaviour. Alongside this tool the DataLab have also rapidly delivered a substantial body of work describing variation in prescribing behaviour across the NHS, and the drivers of practice change.
  • The TrialsTracker is a range of automated online tools monitoring the reporting status of all clinical trials, with papers in the BMJ and Lancet; its sister project COMPare Trials monitors detailed data on outcomes within reported clinical trials.

In policy work, he is currently leading a review into the Better, Broader, Safer Use of NHS Data, reporting to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. He is chair of the HealthTech Advisory Board, a member of the Data Science Advisory Board for the Joint Biosecurity Centre, and has previously served on various national committees including the Dept for Education Data and Evidence Board and the Ministry of Justice Data, Evidence and Science Board. He co-authored this influential Cabinet Office paper, advocating for randomised trials in government, and setting out mechanisms to drive this forwards; and conducted an independent external review for the Department for Education, on improving the creation and use of evidence in the teaching sector (the public component of this work is published here). He is the co-founder of the AllTrials campaign. He also engages more broadly with policy makers and has given evidence on numerous occasions to various parliamentary select committees including the Public Accounts Committee (withheld clinical trials and Tamiflu),Science and Technology (withheld clinical trials, homeopathy), 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. His books have sold over 600,000 copies; 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. 

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