Oxford announces the founding of the new Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science

Oxford announces the founding of the new Bennett Institute for Applied Data Scie

Oxford announces the founding of the new Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science Image credit: Nasir Hamid

The Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science at the University of Oxford has been established to pioneer the better use of data, evidence and digital tools in healthcare and policy, optimizing the impact of interventions to achieve improved outcomes. 

The Institute has been made possible due to a generous donation from The Peter Bennett Foundation.

The Bennett Institute will bring together a diverse group of academics from a range of disciplines, including clinicians, software engineers, policy experts and statisticians. They will develop and implement new methods and tools to make data and evidence more impactful in the world, improving the lives of patients and citizens. Based within the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, the Bennett Institute will enhance and expand the work that has been undertaken to date by the DataLab.

The founding benefactor of the Peter Bennett Foundation, Peter Bennett, was born in Hong Kong and educated in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. Following a successful career in banking and hedge fund management, Peter now devotes his time to his family and to pursuing philanthropic endeavours. The Peter Bennett Foundation was formed in 2013 to promote equity and reduce poverty through direct donations and institutional support. Working in Hong Kong, China and South East Asia, the Foundation supports NGOs and other organisations in the health, education and welfare sectors.

In 2016, the Foundation turned to supporting academic endeavours to effect systemic change in the global community. Through the establishment and funding of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, Peter is committed to the development and implementation of better global public policy, with an emphasis on achieving growth while reducing inequality. The new Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science at the University of Oxford is the latest academic effort supported by the Peter Bennett Foundation.

Peter Bennett says: ’I am thrilled to play a part in the establishment of the Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science at the University of Oxford. This initiative builds upon the existing work of the Oxford DataLab and provides secured funding to nurture the growth of the Bennett Institute and facilitate its work in using data science to improve the quality of life for communities in the United Kingdom and beyond.

’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.’

"Data and evidence have proven power to transform lives,’ says Dr Ben Goldacre, currently Director of the DataLab in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, and inaugural Director of the Bennett Institute. ’This backing from the Peter Bennett Foundation will help us rapidly accelerate our work, innovate more flexibly, and develop broad collaborations outside of medicine.’

Dr Goldacre leads a multidisciplinary team that has developed a range of new methods and open source software that generate new data and evidence, but also make it more impactful in the world. Recent outputs include OpenSAFELY.org, a new analytics platform delivering data insights securely across 58 million patients’ health records; and tools such as OpenPrescribing.net and TrialsTracker.net which use data to improve the quality of clinical services and research. He is currently leading a review for the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on improving the use of NHS data, and is also a best-selling author.

’Our work has two defining features: 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: we look forward to proving its power over the coming years.’

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, says: ’We are deeply grateful to the Peter Bennett Foundation for this generous donation and for their foresight in focusing on an area of such growing importance. 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. I look forward to following their work in the years to come.’


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