This page lists significant improvements to the platform and other important updates since June 2021, with the most recent at the top. We suggest you check it regularly.
Last updated: 22 September 2023
Updated packages in R image
Updated: 22 September 2023
In order to add a new package to the R Docker image we had to upgrade some of the existing package versions. Hopefully these upgrades will be welcome but there’s a small possibility they might cause issues with existing code so please be on the look out for this.
The most significant upgrade is of the
readr package from 1.3.1 to 2.1.4.
You can find the changelog here:
You can see the full list of upgraded packages on Github here: https://github.com/opensafely-core/r-docker/commit/30fc019
Automatically run failed dependencies when submitting jobs
Updated: 19 September 2023
Previously, when submitting jobs to run the platform would reject requests if any of the requested action’s dependencies had previously failed.
This required users to explicitly request those failed dependencies to be
re-run. This was cumbersome, and was not the same behaviour as when running
actions locally on user’s machines with the
opensafely run command.
We have now changed this behaviour, so that if you submit an action to run, any dependent actions that have previously failed will also be scheduled to run. This should make submitting jobs simpler in many cases.
For context, the original design for this behaviour was to encourage users to ensure their code runs succesfully locally before submitting to run for real. This avoids overloading the system with jobs that may fail anyway due to code errors. This is still a very important best practice what we strongly encourage users to do before submitting jobs.
However, this resulted in an awkward workflow for submitting batches of jobs, hence this change.
Updated disclosure control guidance
Updated: 18 September 2023
We have recently made some updates to our disclosure control guidance. This is important for both researchers requesting release of outputs and those who review them. We have made the following changes, which are summarised in more detail below:
- Requiring rounding of counts in addition to suppression of low counts
- Increasing the small number suppression threshold to 7
- Encouraging release of underlying data earlier in the analysis pipeline
- A new checklist for requesting a release
- Updated recommendations for release of log files
- More detail on allowed file types
User, project, and organisation Event Logs added
Updated: 05 September 2023
OpenSAFELY Jobs has been updated with new Event Log pages for users, projects, and organisations.
These pages provide specific information about current Job Requests, and allow users to see a complete audit log of all previous Job Requests.
Examples of new Event Log pages include:
- User: Louis Fisher
- Organisation: The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
- Project: Investigating the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the UK
The global OpenSAFELY Job Server Event Log page has also been updated to match the other Event Log pages, and contains a complete log of all Job Requests ever run by OpenSAFELY across all Backends.
As a user of the Job Server, you can access your own Event Log page from your dashboard.
New opensafely clean command
Updated: 12 April 2023
We have added a command to the opensafely command line tool:
This command will safely remove any leftover OpenSAFELY docker artifacts from your system. Specifically, it removes old images, job containers, and file volumes that may have been created when running jobs locally on a user’s computer.
Users who have Docker runnng on WSL may find this particularly useful, as it looks like removing these leftover artifacts can help reduce memory usage.
The documentation has more information on managing your local docker resources.
Improved access to OpenSAFELY Jobs from secure environments
Updated: 06 April 2023
OpenSAFELY Jobs is used by researchers from within the secure environments (such as TPP level 4) to support the review and output checking of files.
We’ve added an easier way for users to log in to OpenSAFELY Jobs from the TPP secure environment, by implementing auto-generated single use tokens. Previously, users were required to manually type their Github password and 2FA token, which was too easy to get wrong.
To use this new method, users first generate a single use token by going to their settings page and clicking on the “Generate Single Use Token” button. Then, they log in as normal to TPP level 4 over the VPN and open a browser window pointing at the OpenSAFELY Jobs log in page. They are now able to authenticate to OpenSAFELY Jobs using just their username or email and the single use token. Much quicker while still being highly secure!
Updates to the OpenSAFELY Jobs home page
Updated: 27 March 2023
OpenSAFELY Jobs home page has been updated to create a personalised dashboard for users.
Once logged in, users will now be able to view:
- The most recent job requests they have created
- Workspaces they have access to
- Most recently updated projects
- In progress and completed application forms
Alongside the new home page, users are now able to access a personalised list of:
For visitors to the website who don’t have an account, a new home page is visible containing information on why they might want to use OpenSAFELY for their next research project.
opensafely exec command for interactive sessions.
Updated: 16 February 2023
New opensafely command:
There is new
opensafely exec command in recent versions of the
tool. It is designed to aid in development of analysis code using the published
OpenSAFELY docker images.
The need to add your your work-in-progress code to project.yaml in order to test it is awkward. This leads some users to use their own locally installed R/python/stata tooling to develop their code. However, this means they may end up inadventantly using a library (or version of library) which is not available in the relevant OpenSAFELY image, and then the code fails when running with project.yaml.
We previously added the
to help improve this workflow when working with Jupyter notebooks, but with
opensafely exec, we’ve extended this support to other tools.
What does it do?
opensafely exec IMAGE COMMAND does the following:
- runs the relevant docker IMAGE (r, python, stata-mp, cohortextractor)
- shares the files in your current directory
- executes COMMAND (or the default command for the image if you don’t supply one)
This might sound fairly simple, but it opens up some convenient new workflows.
To run an interactive R session in your current directory, just do:
opensafely exec r R
This will start the opensafely R image, run
R, and make the files in your
current directory available to you. So you can load, test, and develop against
your current code and data locally, and save your changes. It’ll even save your
R workspace if you want it to.
For python, you might like to run an interactive ipython session:
opensafely exec python ipython
And similarly for stata:
opensafely exec stata-mp
You can also run cohortextractor directly, which can help testing study definitions:
opensafely exec cohortextractor --help
You can actually run any command you want by passing it as an argument.
For example, you can open an interactive bash shell in any of our images with, if you want to look around inside the image:
opensafely exec $IMAGE bash
For more information, you can run
opensafely exec --help, or see the
We are always looking for ways to make developing with OpenSAFELY tools easier.
opensafely exec is a key feature to help acheive this. Using it as a base,
some other improvements we may be able to explore in future:
- An option to confgure Rstudio use the opensafely R image for OpenSAFELY projects
- Possibly running the graphical version of Stata
- VSCode integration to run your code automatically with
- Tooling to make testing your analysis code much easier.
New build of the OpenSAFELY R image
Updated: 15 February 2023
New version of the R image published
We have just published a new build of the R image. No action needed, but more information below!
What has not changed?
This is not a semantic change - the same versions of the same set of libraries are installed. However the way the image is built has been reworked, in order to address a number of shortcomings of the previous image, and provide a stonger base to build on in future.
What has changed?
We built the new image from a more up-to-date base. This means a number of core system libraries have been updated to newer versions. If you want to, you can see the list of system libraries that were updated. These are not R libraries, but rather some of the base C libraries used at a low level. Keeping them up to date is important for security and bug fixes.
In addition, we’ve moved from R 4.0.2 to 4.0.5 to pick up a slew of minor fixes.
What does this mean for me?
Hopefully, nothing! The next time you run
opensafely pull, downloading the
R image may take a bit longer then normal. But otherwise, all your studies
should run as normal, locally and via jobs.opensafely.org.
We have tested the new image with variety of study code without issue, but if you do find something has changed, please contact tech support and let us know.
Who is to blame for this!?
Special thanks go to Tom Palmer from the University of Bristol for helping motivate and then exhaustively test the new build process.
- Pull request: https://github.com/opensafely-core/r-docker#123
Using compressed data files by default
Updated: 02 February 2023
Using compressed files is now the default recommendation in documentation and templates. On the backends, where datasets can be very large, using uncompressed files significantly slows execution and consumes more disk space.
In addition, recommendations for using compressed formats for further data files in python, R and Stata has been updated.
Because of the change in filename, if you have a workspace with a large amount of data in uncompressed CSV files, ask tech-support about moving to compressed CSVs, and we can help do this efficiently.
Improve handling of stale medication codelists in cohort-extractor
Updated: 06 January 2023
dm+d codes for Virtual Medicinal Products (VMPs) can change over time, with the result that codelists that contain VMP codes can become stale.
As a consequence, studies that use
with an old codelist may not have captured all the medication events that the author intended.
Until now, the mitigation has been to review and update codelists manually. With this update, cohort-extractor keeps stale medication codelists up-to-date by expanding the original codelist, so that it includes all current and previous codes of any VMPs in the codelist. This happens automatically.
Note that a codelist containing a VMP and all associated AMPs will still become stale with respect to new AMPs for that VMP are added to dm+d; this case is not currently handled automatically.
We will be contacting all study authors to explain the potential impact of using stale codelists more widely.
Add rounding instructions to disclosure documentations
Updated: 07 September 2022
Added instructions regarding rounding to our disclosure control documentation, including an example.
Added support for parameterised study definitions
Updated: 07 September 2022
Study definitions can now be “parameterised” so they accept values passed in by the action. This allows multiple cohorts with different properties to be generated by a single study definition.
Added support for querying by first and last day of the school year
Updated: 06 September 2022
Added support for querying by first and last day of the (English) school year.
Added resources management argument to
opensafely run command
Updated: 31 August 2022
Users of the OpenSAFELY platform use the
opensafely tool to run their code
locally prior to running against the real data.
This change adds some options to control the concurrency and memory usage of running actions, which should help users manage their local resource usage.
with_at_least_one_day_in_critical_care filter to
Updated: 10 August 2022
Added ability to filter a patient’s hospital admissions to only those with at least one day in critical care.
Platform status page
Updated: 02 August 2022
We have rolled out a status page for the platform. Services on this page will be automatically updated if incidents occur.
Clarification about referrals data
Updated: 29 June 2022
We have clarified in the documentation that data on referrals is incomplete. Any codelists which include referral codes used with
patients.with_these_clinical_events are unlikely to return complete data as it is largely held separately in a difficult-to-analyse format. We hope to offer an alternative data source for referrals in due course.
Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccination name change
Updated: 17 June 2022
The name of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has changed to
COVID-19 Vaccine Vaxzevria 0.5ml inj multidose vials (AstraZeneca). To continue to access data for these vaccines, all users will need to update study definitions appropriately.
UK Renal Registry added to OpenSAFELY
Updated: 21 April 2022
Added support for querying the UK Renal Registry
ONS CIS added to OpenSAFELY
Updated: 05 April 2022
Added support for querying COVID-19 Infection Survey data provided by the Office for National Statistics.
Additional options for
Updated: 08 March 2022
Added support for returning
ISARIC added to OpenSAFELY
Updated: 07 February 2022
Added support for querying the ISARIC (International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium) dataset.
COVID-19 Therapeutics added to OpenSAFELY
Updated: 02 February 2022
Added support for querying the COVID-19 Therapeutics dataset.
Added ability to query a patient’s
Updated: 28 January 2022
Added ability to query a patient’s
place_of_death (TPP backend only).
Updated: 27 January 2022
- Extended mean_recorded_value to support querying for mean recorded value across a full date range, as well as the most recent day of measurement.
- Added min_recorded_value to support querying for minimum recorded value.
- Added max_recorded_value to support querying for maximum recorded value.
- Pull request: opensafely-core/cohort-extractor#726
Added support for querying by first and last day of the NHS financial (recording) year
Updated: 24 January 2022
Added support for querying by first and last day of the NHS financial (recording) year.
Show how to extract cohortextractor output in compressed gzip (csv.gz) format
Updated: 06 September 2021
Show how to extract cohortextractor output in compressed gzip (csv.gz) format - recommended to be used in all studies to minimise file storage size. (However, CSVs can still be used where Stata is used for analysis).
This is now shown in all parts of documentation with cohortextractor steps.
Added support for users to provide their own dummy data
Updated: 21 July 2021
Added support for users to provide their own dummy data.
Documentation explaining how permissions work
Updated: 07 July 2021
Added a page in the docs explaining (briefly) how permissions work.
Ability to query a patient’s health care worker status in vaccination records
Updated: 11 June 2021
Add ability to query a patient’s health care worker status in vaccination records (TPP backend only)
OpenSAFELY CLI can now start a JupyterLab server
Updated: 18 January 2021
The OpenSAFELY command-line tool can now start a JupyterLab server. This allows you to easily develop code within the OpenSAFELY Python environment.
Added support for case-control studies
Updated: 14 January 2021
Added support for case-control studies
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