A research partnership, in which University of Aberdeen is a core partner, has won a prestigious international award for making trials of new healthcare treatments more efficient and effective.
Professor Paula Williamson, the University of Liverpool lead, and her colleagues won one of the 2021 Cochrane-REWARD prizes for reducing research waste through the work conducted by the Medical Research Council (MRC)/National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Trials Methodology Research Partnership (TMRP), Network Hubs :: TMRP (mrc.ac.uk).
The MRC/NIHR funded TMRP brings together the HTMR Network, Health Data Research UK, UKCRC Registered CTU Network, UK Trial Managers’ Network, HRB Trials Methodology Research Network (Ireland), The Global Health Network, and 25 UK universities – of which Aberdeen is one. This research ensures health research, practice and policy are built on the best evidence; and maximises benefits for patients and the public.
Randomised trials are the cornerstone of evidence-based healthcare because they offer the best tests of treatments and health care interventions.
Waste occurs during five stages of research production: question selection, study design, research conduct, publication, and reporting. Much of this waste appears to be avoidable or remediable, but there are few proposed solutions.
The evidence base for how to make the trials process more efficient is something the TMRP has contributed significantly to.
TMRP members work together as a community of practice, strengthening links between trialists, methods researchers, clinicians, patients, the public, and funders. TMRP includes eight Working Groups: Adaptive Designs; Global Health; Health Economics; Health Informatics; Outcomes; Statistical Analysis; Stratified Medicine; Trial Conduct.
The impact of better networking has led to:
• better, more impactful research
• ability to pivot to COVID-19 projects
• less duplication of effort
• value for money
• increased education and knowledge exchange
More effective COVID trials
An example of TMRP’s impact can be seen in the improvement of COVID-19 related trials. New trial designs have led to more efficient and expedient trials. By using the same control group for several evaluations, fewer patients need to be randomised. The ability to add and remove treatments means that ineffective or highly beneficial treatments are identified quicker and trial infrastructure only has to be set up once.
Dr Katie Gillies (University of Aberdeen lead and Trial Conduct Working Group co-lead), said: “The TMRP network has provided a community of practice that has had the ability to be agile and pivot to address some of the key questions for COVID-19 trials and much more. We’re delighted to have our work recognised with this award. TMRP strives to improve health by improving research.”
The team picked up the award at the Cochrane Connects meeting on 1 March 2022.
*University of Aberdeen led initiative Trial Forge was the recipient of this award in 2019.