The PHUSE EU Connect is always an important event in the data science and statistical programming calendar and took place for the first time this year as a hybrid format combining virtual and live elements. Several speakers and delegates took part in person from a single location in London, while the rest of the event comprised a mix of virtual ‘live’ and pre-recorded presentations. At Veramed, we were fortunate to have several speakers – Stuart Malcolm, Emily Jones, and Tom Ratford – selected to participate as part of the virtual programme, with other team members joining to take advantage of the learning opportunities. I had the pleasure of co-chairing one stream and facilitating a panel discussion.

This blog summarises the key highlights and themes that resonated with our team and an overview of the hybrid experience. 

Senior Manager, Statistics

The hybrid format

While all of us are undoubtedly keen to get back to live events, the virtual format does have some advantages, not least for people development. With an online or hybrid structure, it is more accessible to send more participants to the conference – this year, we were lucky enough to have nine attendees from Veramed join. 

As well as democratising access to conferences, the virtual format may also yield benefits in encouraging participation in Q&A and debates. I certainly noticed within the panel discussion that I co-chaired that there was excellent engagement and many questions submitted through the chat function. Perhaps raising questions remotely is less inhibiting for some attendees than standing up on a busy conference floor?

For me, the following themes came through particularly strongly during this year’s conference.


Perhaps in response to the stresses and strains of the pandemic, the theme of wellbeing had a significant profile within the conference schedule. One of the highlights for Veramed’s Emily Jones was the ‘How are you?’ hands-on workshop which provided tips and strategies to handle discussions about stress and wellbeing with your workplace. 

The two keynote presentations also tackled different aspects of wellbeing. On the first day, Laura Hern, a former BBC journalist, gave personal perspectives from her experience battling an eating disorder and highlighted some of the strategies we can use to support our mental health. On the second day, Benjamin Alldis, an instructor at Peloton Interactive, talked about quality of life and the multi-faceted nature of wellness.

Wellbeing is an essential priority for Veramed leadership, and we have implemented various supportive programmes for our employees, especially throughout the last 18 months. In fact, we are bringing in Jennifer Dootson and colleague Lisa Carver to conduct a wellbeing workshop and share tools with our line managers that will help them support their teams.


The topic of multilingualism – the use of programming languages beyond SAS – was already coming through strongly as a theme during the US Connect earlier in the year. This conversation continued extensively during the EU meeting. The overall discussion has now moved beyond the technical aspects of introducing languages such as R, towards thinking more holistically about the implications of working with multiple languages. At the conference, leading pharma companies such as GSK shared their experiences introducing R into day-to-day working. 

I expect this topic will continue to feature during meetings throughout 2022 as we develop applications for an extended portfolio of programming languages.

Data transparency

Data transparency remains a key theme, and we have evolved from our initial forays into this topic almost a decade ago towards a more mature position. Initially, following the publication of Ben Goldacre’s book ‘Bad Pharma’, there was an impetus to act swiftly to tackle data transparency, using whatever means possible. This of course made sense at the time. Our efforts are now more sophisticated and increasingly focused on refining best practices for de-identification and quantifying the risks of reidentification.


I attended a very thought-provoking presentation by Andy Lawton discussing ‘Quality by Design’, taking inspiration from how the manufacturing industry quantifies quality and manages thresholds. I found this a helpful new way to think about quality – less as the pursuit of perfectionism – but instead in the context of risk.

Digital measurements in clinical trials

Our Head of Standards, Efficiency and Automation, Stuart Malcolm, found the 90-minute workshop on the DEEP (Digital Endpoints Ecosystem and Protocols) initiative highly engaging. The programme was founded to develop novel digital clinical endpoints for clinical trials and represents an environment where digital measures (endpoints) are developed, assessed, adopted, and reused within health sciences. Digital measurements stand to become a vital tool within clinical trials over the next five years and beyond, so the initiative presents a substantial opportunity for the industry.

All in all, the meeting provided new perspectives and an opportunity for learning. Naturally we are all keeping fingers crossed to return to face-to-face events in 2022. In the meantime, we are grateful to have been able to maintain collaboration with our industry colleagues despite the challenges of the last 18 months.

We’re recruiting talented Programmers to join the Veramed team. To find out more about our roles, visit our Programming Careers page below.

Programming Careers