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
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

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

This article was sponsored by Metaxis. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy