Digging Data Science in Brum

Digging Data Science in Brum

Digging Data Science in Brum 260 200 Exploristics

By Catriona O’Hare, Statistical Programming Team Lead

I attended the Clinical Data Science Conference Phuse EU Connect in Birmingham (known fondly as Brum) at the beginning of November. This marked my fifth attendance at Phuse, and I observed its significant growth with 670 attendees. The event had an excellent setup and a vibrant atmosphere. With 20.5 years of experience as a Statistical Programmer, it was a pleasure to reconnect with old colleagues and make new acquaintances.


Sharing Coding Tips and Tricks

Hailing from Northern Ireland, I was proud to represent Exploristics, given its base in Belfast. While I presented a poster at Phuse about 15 years ago, this year felt like the right time to step into a presenter role. My presentation focused on integrating TFLs (table, figures, and listings) into one combined file in PDF with a Table of Contents and bookmarks, along with patient profiles in PDF with bookmarks, using SAS, Ghostscript, and VBScript. I experienced some nervousness before taking the stage, but once up there, I genuinely enjoyed the experience. Having personally worked on all the code and research for the topic, it was gratifying to share my insights.


Inspirational Keynotes

I always enjoy the keynote speakers; the 1.5 hours go by so quickly as there are fascinating speakers. This year, Diversity and Inclusion expert Naomi Sesay, who has an impressive list of achievements, spoke about her life and career, accompanied by her lovely daughter. Former Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas also shared his life story which included being the first high-profile sportsperson to come out as gay while still playing. This has transformed his life, and he is now a regular speaker on the corporate circuit addressing LGBT issues. Finally, the first woman to climb Mount Everest, motivational speaker Cathy O’Dowd, discussed her thrilling and scary story of climbing the Mazeno Ridge of Naga Parbat. All the speakers were impressive and inspiring.


Posters and presentations

There were many presentations, workshops, and posters covering a wide range of topics. What I enjoy at Phuse is that everyone is willing to share their information and experience. A standout poster for me was one on “Statistics for Programmers,” which I found remarkably interesting. It covered training for programmers on statistical tasks they perform in their day-to-day work, providing a deeper understanding of the code used and interpretation of the results produced.


I also attended a wide variety of technical and non-technical presentations including:

  • R programming which is a key part of our work at Exploristics.
  • How the role of a Statistical Programmer has evolved over the years.
  • The hiring of Statistical Programmers.
  • CDISC submissions including using Python to automate Reviewer guides.
  • TFL Automation and tools to compare TFLs.
  • Methods and Limitations on multiple imputations for Efficacy analysis.
  • Open source in Statistical programming.
  • Tools and tips to help lead projects and coach Statistical Programmers.
  • Ways to be a Green as a company, which I believe should be important for every company, and has been embraced by Exploristics via our dedicated environmental team, Greenistics.
  • Challenges and the journey of working through a pandemic and international conflict in Ukraine for Statistical Programmers, which is close to my heart as I have worked with many Ukrainian Statistical programmers in my career.
  • Using social media to identify reported side effects of anti-depression.


A particularly interesting presentation I attended was on the uses of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ChatGPT which both scared and excited me. Most known for generating written content, ChatGPT is also able to write and debug computer programs. This feature has many potential applications in my field of Statistical Programming but could also have further uses in other key areas of the company such as Biostatistics, Statistical Consulting, Data Science and Software Development. Many attendees came away from this talk with plenty of food for thought.


Dinner, dancing and digging data science

This year’s conference was both enjoyable and informative. With a packed daytime agenda, the evening social gatherings were a welcome change of pace and provided a terrific way to network more informally. The Monday night dinner was not to be missed and concluded on a high with enthusiastic dancing.


Most importantly, the conference provided an excellent opportunity to share and communicate new, exciting data science methods, technologies, and approaches. The Statistical Programming team at Exploristics is actively working to improve efficiencies and programming in R. This effort is yielding a wealth of ideas that our Statistical Programmers team will be able to share next year. Roll on Phuse EU Connect 2024.


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