A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Metaxis's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Metaxis is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett, MP
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP

Dr Gordon Dooley, managing
Great care is taken to ensure all our
software works optimally on all devices
In a healthcare world characterised by ever-increasing amounts
of information and ever-decreasing time to digest it, Metaxis,
based in Witney, Oxfordshire, brings together people and new
technology. Their software is used around the world from highly
secure hospital environments to rural health centres. Managing
director Dr Gordon Dooley discusses all things Metaxis here.
We are a small software development company based near Oxford, providing
cutting-edge, innovative software solutions for complex evidence synthesis. Our
development ethos is dynamic and rooted in best practice agile methodology.
We adapt to and iterate our clients’ needs quickly, and our software design
principles of rapid behaviour-driven development, high performance, close client
collaboration and ease of use ensure we deliver high-quality software solutions
aligned to our customers’ demands.
Bringing together technology and people
Our world is the world of evidence synthesis in healthcare settings, but integrating
technology and evidence synthesis is not just about writing clever computer
programs; it is also about managing change, so that the people who use the
programs have both the training and the motivation to use them. Sometimes
even the smartest software initiatives can fail because the focus is not on the
people who will use it (it’s worth noting that people generally don’t like change).
At Metaxis, we embrace this as part of our development process, and regard the
management of change as just as big a part of this process as the actual coding
of the programs. Modern thinking on software development increasingly puts the
»Managing director:
Dr Gordon Dooley
»Established in 2007
»Based in Witney, Oxfordshire
»Services: Software solutions
for evidence synthesis and
workflow control
»No. of employees: Variable
depending on contracts, but
we have a small core team of
5 permanent employees
Highlighting best practice
focus of program design squarely on
providing solutions that fit the users’
needs, and this agile development
process helps us involve users very
closely with everything wedo.
Evidence-based decision-making
Decision-making in healthcare is
increasingly based on evidence rather
than opinion. Millions of healthcare
papers a year are published in
thousands of journals and no one
has the time to read them all. Many
groups and organisations are striving
to synthesise this raw evidence into
usable building blocks for decision-
making, and, as a small company, we
are proud to be working with some
of those groups to help integrate new
technology with existing working
Case study – Cochrane Crowd
One of our key collaborations in terms
of bringing people and technology
together is with the Cochrane
organisation. Their main purpose is
to develop systematic reviews of the
strongest evidence available about
healthcare interventions. This, in
turn, enables consumers and health
practitioners to work together to make
the best possible decisions about
We work closely with Cochrane on
many different innovative projects;
one high-profile example of how we
evolve processes as new technology
becomes available is the Cochrane
Crowd project. Cochrane Crowd is a
collaboration between Metaxis and
the Cochrane Dementia and Cognitive
Improvement Group to produce a
crowd-sourcing platform to engage
citizen scientists in Cochrane work.
For the last two decades, authors
of Cochrane reviews have screened
hundreds of thousands of research
papers to find out whether or not they
are reports of randomised controlled
trials (RCTs) – the gold standard of
evidence that Cochrane is interestedin.
The Cochrane Crowd application was
developed to allow ordinary people
to help with that process by screening
papers online. The software not
only manages the user experience
and makes it easy for anyone to get
involved; it also has sophisticated
back-end processes to check that
decisions are consistent, and to ensure
the quality of the work is monitored
and maintained. The user experience
is fundamental to the success of all
applications, so to provide maximum
flexibility, we have designed it to work
on a multitude of platforms, from
desktop PCs to small smartphones.
The Cochrane Crowd project was
so popular that together with our
collaborators we went on to produce
Cochrane Classmate, another online
application that allows teachers of
healthcare courses to incorporate
Cochrane Crowd activities into their
own teaching programs. This is a
win-win program; teachers have a
ready-made platform for their students
to learn about RCTs and evidence-
based healthcare, while Cochrane has
more individual screeners working on
Cochrane Crowd users
can work anywhere;
they can contribute to
the project whenever
they have a few minutes
The Cochrane
Crowd project
was so
popular that
we went on to
Enter machine learning
The world of machine learning and
artificial intelligence burgeoned in 2017.
An opportunity arose to collaborate
with groups right at the forefront of
those developments. For example, the
EPPI-Centre at UCL and others designed
a machine learning algorithm that
can automatically distinguish between
reports of RCTs and reports of trials
with other study designs. This is exactly
what the Cochrane Crowd is doing.
We worked closely with that group not
only to bring the technology right into
the Cochrane Crowd workflow (where
we regard the machine as just another
assessor) but also to push forward
the adoption of machine learning as
a valid and useful adjunct to normal
Integrating machine learning into a big
organisation has its own challenges,
and emphasises the importance of
involving people right from the start.
Working in close collaboration with
end users meant we were able to
foresee the likely stumbling blocks and
design the user interface in ways that
harnessed the power of the technology
but avoided the more threatening
aspects of implementing a major
change in thinking.
Integrating new technology
with existing working
practices begins at home
Although we have a small office-based
core team, we also make use of modern
technology as part of our central
company ethos. The development
of modern video conferencing
programs has seen a paradigm shift
for employment opportunities in many
industries, but particularly in software
development where it is being widely
adopted. We no longer need to recruit
people in the immediate vicinity or
require individuals to be prepared to
travel or relocate; we now have the
whole world as our pool of talent,
and through online video conferencing,
our programmers can work in their own
environments while retaining a tangible,
palpable presence for otherworkers.
At Metaxis we have always thought of
ourselves as standing on the shoulders
of giants. The people we work with are
inspirational leaders in their fields and
collaborating with them is a privilege
and an honour, and because of them
the software we produce is cutting
edge, innovative and exciting. It’s a
great world to be in.
with existing
practices begins
at home
Remote working allows
both clients and staff to
stay connected all the

The Parliamentary Review Publication, in which this article originally appeared, contained the following foreword from the prime minister.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister