Introduction to the Pipeline Team
19 April 2023
This article is part of a series:
Hello, from the Bennett Institute’s Pipeline Team!
In this short blog post, we’ll talk about who we are, what we do and some of the products we’re responsible for.
What do we do?
The Pipeline Team enables reproducible research by providing tools and services for researchers and analysts to create studies and run analyses, both locally and remotely.
Our tools and services combine to create a reproducible analytics pipeline that allows researchers and analysts to run code in an open, transparent and reproducible way; whether that’s code they’ve written using OpenSAFELY or code that’s been generated for them using OpenSAFELY Interactive.
- Tools to run and test code locally, before a request is made to run it in a secure, trusted research environment.
- An automated way, via OpenSAFELY Jobs, to run their code in a secure, trusted research environment.
- A secure way to review and release any of the results, via our output checking process, in line with strict information governance controls.
- An option to generate reports that can be shared with the rest of the world on our Reports website.
Our work enables other teams, like NHS service analytics and clinical informatics teams, all of the external researchers, and the co-pilots, to deliver results without needing to know details of the underlying systems. They write their code in their chosen editor or IDE using R, Python or Stata (thanks to the work of the data team), test it locally using OpenSAFELY CLI, and run it on the OpenSAFELY platform by submitting a request using OpenSAFELY Jobs. This request is picked up by our Job Runner, which then runs the code automatically in one of the secure environments.
Who are we?
We are a team of experienced software developers with a passion for building systems that help researchers perform high-quality epidemiology and service analytics. We are:
- Lucy Bridges — the team lead and software developer, with experience of leading development teams in the public sector and commercial organisations.
- George Hickman — software developer, who has spent the last ten years working with start-ups, agencies and his own consultancy helping teams to build better software.
- Simon Davy — software developer, experienced in developing and operating high traffic web services, with a focus on deployment pipelines and system observability, and an interest in security.
- Tom O’Dwyer — front-end developer, leading on user experience and interface design, with vast experience creating engaging digital products and a passion for accessibility.
- Tom Ward — software developer, with over fifteen years of professional experience working with web technologies, and a particular interest in open data.
This is the main service that researchers will interact with, as it is what they use to sign up to use the OpenSAFELY platform and for managing different aspects of their research. In particular, using it to request that their code is run on one of the OpenSAFELY secure backends.
This tool allows researchers to develop their analysis code locally, creating an environment that is similar to an OpenSAFELY secure backend by making use of Docker containers. This allows them to write code in a development environment of their choice and at a time of their choosing. When they’re ready, they can use OpenSAFELY Jobs to submit their code, with confidence that it’ll run on the secure backend.
Currently in development, this service will allow analysts and researchers to build queries using a graphical (point and click) tool and run it against one the OpenSAFELY secure backends without needing to write a line of code.
We’re always keen to learn more about how other groups work, so if you’re doing similar things to us, especially if you’re building tools to help researchers, then get in touch!