Dr Jessica Butler

Dr Jessica Butler
Dr Jessica Butler
Dr Jessica Butler


Analytical Lead/Research Fellow


Room 1:172 Polwarth Building
Centre for Health Data Science
University of Aberdeen
Aberdeen, AB25 2ZD


I came to the University of Aberdeen to join the team at the Centre for Health Data Science. Before that I got my PhD at the University of Massachusetts in bioinformatics. I'm originally from beautiful rural Pennsylvania in the US.

At the Centre I'm part of a great team studying NHS and government records to understand how to improve population health.

I lead our Networked Data Lab with the Health Foundation. This five-site collaboration is improving NHS & government analytics and sharing the resulting software & data.

I'm on the NHS Grampian COVID Surveillance Team. I've made open-source tools to find coronavirus contact networks and areas of NHS Grampian most vulnerable to coronavirus.

I'm passionate about improving research culture, so scientists are rewarded for doing rigorous and useful science. I recently gave evidence on improving research to the House of Commons Science & Technology committee.

Open Science & Research Culture Resources

Understanding the problem

A manifesto for reproducible science, Munafo et al

What researchers think about the culture they work in, Wellcome Trust's survey of 4000 scientists

One university's journey to improve research

Improving research quality


Registered Reports

Reproducible methods

Reporting guidelines

Persistent identifiers: ORCID (people) & DOI (data, code & research)

Crediting all contributions to research

Openly publish all results: MedrXiv & BiorXiv

Changing how research is rewarded

UKRI CEO on changing UK research culture

Science Minister on REF reform

University of Glasgow's overhaul of research culture

Wellcome's mandate on research assessment

UKRI's novel CV format for all grant applications

Unis commit to ignoring journal metrics

Unis commit to support researchers in precarious posts

Get help!

Watch my short talk on how academics can work together for better research here (slides)

#ResearchCulture twitter

Join UK Reproducibility Network

Watch RIOT Science Club

Join ReproducibiliTea Journal Club

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

I run the Aberdeen Open Research Working Group. All students and staff are very welcome to join - just drop me an email.

I'm the Open Science Champion at the Centre for Health Data Science, a partnership with NHS Grampian and NHS Research & Development North Node.

I'm on the University of Aberdeen's Research Culture committee and the Postdoctoral Researcher committee - both dedicated to improving the quaility of research by creating a more supportive culture for researchers.

External Memberships

I'm an honorary data analyst with NHS Grampian, currently supporting the COVID response.

I'm a member of the Grampian COVID Surveillance team, a collaboration of NHS Grampian and the three Local Authorities in Grampian. You can see some my NHS work here.

I'm on the editorial board at Scientific Data, an open-access journal that advances the sharing and reuse of scientific data.

I'm on the editorial board of Scientific Reports, supporting their launch of Registered Reports. They now accept research for publication *based solely on the study design* (results-blinded).

I'm the local lead for the UK Reproducibility Network at the University of Aberdeen.


Research Overview

public health, health inequalities, open science, data provenance, meta-research

Current Research

NHS Networked Data Lab

I am the Analytic Lead for our new collaboration with Health Foundation and four other NHS Centres. This project, called the Networked Data Lab, is a close collaboration of teams working on methods for analysis and presentation of NHS data. Our short-term focus is on developing tools to identify and help people most vulnerable to COVID.


I'm leading a Chief Scientist's Office project to protect patients with serious existing medical conditions who have been asked by the government to self-isolate to protect their health (shield). We are mapping these patients' pre-COVID care pathways and advising the NHS on how to protect them as they receive care during the pandemic.

I also work with the awesome Dimitra Blana on an NHS R&D project to create a local COVID model. We are working with Graham Osler at NHS Grampian to use real-time infection data to predict hospital occupancy in Grampian.

Robust & Reproducible use of High-Security Patient Data

In 2021, I will start a Wellcome Trust Open Research project to design reproducible and transparent methods for research using patient data. The goal of the project is to automate the capture and reporting of complex data provenance without compromising patient data privacy.

Past Research

Patient-Centred Care for Fibromyalgia

Pre-pandemic, I was studying the diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia as part of the PACFIND project. The goal of this work is to map the complicated health care journeys fibromyalgia patients have to find ways to improve treatment. We are linking 15 years of patients' clinic visits, hospital admissions, and prescribing data to detailed personal surveys. We are also trying to identify undiagnosed fibromyalgia patients from GP records.

Schooling and Health

We collected 20 years of hospital admissions for 5000 Aberdeen Children of the 1950s study members to see if selective schooling effected long-term health. You can see our regression discontinuity analysis paper here.

We did this work in a novel manner called a Registered Report. The paper was accepted for publication based solely on the significance of the question and the quality of the study design, before we saw the data. The paper was the first Registered Report published in BMC Medicine, you can read my article about the experience here.


I work in the Aberdeen Centre for Health Data Science, part of Health Data Research UK.

I have an honorary post with NHS Grampian as a data analyst. We work closely with NHS Grampian across our range of projects.

I'm collaborating with the Health Foundation as analytic lead of our Networked Data Lab in partnership with sites in Wales, London, Liverpool, and Leeds.

My work in patient data provenance is a Wellcome Open Research project done with the NHS Grampian Safe Haven.

My research on chronic pain is done as part of the Patient-centred Care of Fibromyalgia (PACFiND) consortium.

My research on the Aberdeen Birth Cohorts is done through the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research.

Funding and Grants

Our Networked Data Lab is funded with a £400,000 grant from the Health Foundation.

My work on COVID-shielded people is funded by a £76,000 grant from the Chief Scientist's Office COVID-19 Rapid Research Programme.

My work with Dimitra Blana on COVID modelling is funded by a £91,000 grant from the NHS Grampian Endowment Fund, a charity funded by NHS Grampian patients & their families.

My work on open science with high-security data is funded by a £50,000 grant from the Wellcome Trust Open Research Fund.

Our research on chronic pain is funded by a £1,200,000 grant from Arthritis Research UK

Our research on the Aberdeen Birth Cohorts was part of a £7,500,000 grant from the ESRC devoted to the analysis of large administrative data sets.

Our public engagement work was supported by the Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation.


Teaching Responsibilities

I'm supervising Krzys Adamczyk's PhD on social mobility and long-term health.

I taught Open & Reproducible Research Practice at the Health Data Research UK (HDRUK) summer school.

I helped design the Open and Reproducible Health Data Science course for the MSc Health Data Science.

I'm the open science champion at the Centre for Health Data Science and train staff at the university and the NHS in reproducible methods.