I’m Very, Very Excited About This

On January 25th I was in London for an interview – I briefly mentioned it in an earlier blog post but decided to skim over it in case it hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped.

On February 13th, after a fortnight of pacing the flat every time the postman was more than 3 seconds late (side-note: the postman was well and truly sick of me by this point), a bulky A4 envelope landed on my door mat with the news I had been hoping for.

My interview was successful, and now I can finally reveal that I am the super proud recipient of one of 150 Fellowships from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

WCMT was established in 1965 when Sir Winston Churchill died. The Trust is now a national memorial to Sir Winston, and each year they fund up to 150 fellows from all backgrounds to travel overseas in pursuit of new and better ways of tackling a wide range of challenges facing the UK. This isn’t an academic Fellowship – no qualifications are need, it’s about having a project and the passion to improve a community, profession or field.

There will be many more blog posts on my experiences of the Fellowship over the coming months as I plan and carry out my trip, but for now I just wanted to thank the brilliant WCMT Fellows that encouraged me through the application process – Dr Heather Doran (2015 Fellow – read her report here), Sarah Frost (2011 Fellow – read her report here), and Rick Hall (2016 Fellow – read his report here).

So what’s my project all about and where am I going?
I am so excited to be travelling to the USA, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong to explore the process and practice of science blogging.
I’m particularly interested in why scientists are blogging, how they are sustaining these activities when they are so often done out of a passion for science, and how we can use creative approaches (here I mean anything from knitting to doodling, videos to animations – the list is endless!) to effectively communicate complex scientific topics to the public in engaging ways.

As I said earlier, check back in over the coming weeks and months to come along with me on this super exciting journey – I’m so excited!


Publication Explainer: The PRioRiTy Study

Today I had a new publication come out โ€“ hoorah! Told you that all the effort I put towards my 2017 goals would pay off eventually ๐Ÿ™‚ This is the second in my ‘Publication Explainer’ series, and there are at least another 2 that I already need to write, read the first one here. As I said in that post, these explainers are a place for me to answer 3 of the most common questions I’ve been asked by the people around me (usually my boyfriend, friends, or colleagues that haven’t been involved with the project).

This post focusses on the paper below: Identifying trial recruitment uncertainties using a James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership – the PRioRiTy (Prioritising Recruitment in Randomised Trials) study. Read the full paper here.

Why prioritise research questions about recruitment to trials?

Research around recruitment strategies for randomised trials is super important – though it is the premise of my entire PhD project so I would say that. Recruitment to trials is difficult, and many trials (estimates differ but average around the 45-50% mark) fail to recruit enough participants to hit their targets. Targets are not just numbers plucked from thin air, they’re based on detailed calculations performed by trained Statisticians – target figures are designed to enable researchers and trialists to see real differences in the various arms of trials. If we don’t hit target, then results of the research could be vulnerable to something called a type 2 error – which is most simply explained by the image below; it’s a false negative, meaning that we could be telling people that an intervention is effective when it isn’t, or that it isn’t effective when it is.

Clearly, recruitment is as area that requires research, but because there is so much work to be done, we are at risk of being a bit everywhere (just to be clear, ‘being a bit everywhere’ is not the technical term for this…) when it comes to focussing and making substantial progress with improving the way we do research. Going through a formal prioritisation process for the squillions of research questions that surround the process of recruitment, will enable researchers to coordinate the research that they’re doing, plan more effectively, and work together to ensure that we are answering the questions that are most important to the various stakeholder groups involved.

How did the prioritisation process work?

The process of prioritisation that enabled this project to go ahead was a development with the James Lind Alliance – the JLA works with clinicians, patients and carers ensure that all voices are heard, and that prioritisation of research questions reflects the requirements of all of these groups. The James Lind Alliance works on the premise that:

  • addressing uncertainties about the effects of a treatment should become accepted as a routine part of clinical practice
  • patients, carers and clinicians should work together to agree which, among those uncertainties, matter most and deserve priority attention.

The prioritisation process begins with getting partners involved with the PRioRiTy project – this isn’t a project that can be done by one person!The stakeholders involved with this priority setting partnership were:

  • Members of the public who had been invited to participate in a randomised trial or participated in Trial Steering Committees (TSCs). They could be an individual or representing a patient organisation;
  • Front line clinical and research staff who were or had been involved in recruitment to randomised trials (e.g. postdoctoral researchers, clinicians, nurses, midwives, allied health professionals);
  • People who had established expertise in designing, conducting, analysing and reporting randomised trials (e.g. Principal Investigators/Chief Investigators);
  • People who are familiar with the trial methodology research landscape (e.g. funders, programme managers, network coordinators).

Once relevant stakeholders were identified, an initial survey with just 5 questions (below in Table 1 which is taken from the original paper) was developed and distributed to the stakeholders involved.

Responses were collated, organised, coded and analysed in order to generate a full list of research questions. This was a massive part of the work; 1,880 questions came from the 790 respondents to the initial survey. The figure below shows the process of whittling down this huge pile of questions to a manageable – and useful – top 20.

As you can see, this was an iterative process involving lots of people, views, questions – and work! I’ll just make it clear here – I was involved in a small part of this process, and the team working on the project was large; as I said before, with projects like this it’s important to involve people from lots of different backgrounds and with various levels/areas of expertise. The team was led by Prof Declan Devane and Dr Patricia Healy, both from NUI Galway, they kept the rest of us on track!

What next?

In terms of next steps for the team involved in the PRioRiTy project, it’s really important that we work to disseminate our results; after all, if no ones knows what the final list of prioritised questions is, then there was really no point in doing the project. So – with that in mind, here’s the final top 10!

To give these questions some context I wanted to talk through a few of them to go through my thoughts on what types of research may be required to answer them, and why they’re important.I’ll stick to the top 3 for this part:

Understanding how randomised trials can become part of routine care is, unsurprisingly, the top question from this entire project. Knowing how we can use clinical care pathways to ensure that patients are given the opportunity to take part in trials is a hugely important part of normalising trial recruitment, and spreading awareness of trials more generally. There is a tonne of research to be done in this area, and in my opinion, this question will need a diverse range of research angles and methods in order to answer it in a variety of ways.

This question is interesting – what information should trialists be giving to members of the public that are being invited to take part in trials? That seems like something we should have evidence for, but in actual fact we are working from hunches, experiences, and anecdote. I think this question will rightfully fuel a lot of research projects over the coming years, we need to be looking at what information potential participants want, as well as what they need form an ethical/regulatory stand point – at the moment I get the impression that we’re being driven by ethics committees and regulators, and we’re often putting in a lot of information that participants don’t want/need/find useful, because we feel it’s better to give them everything, rather than risk missing something out. I suspect that if we reduce the amount of information we provide, the understanding of that information would increase because participants are able to focus on specific pieces of information more effectively. I say that because I know that if I get a huge leaflet, I’m much more likely to avoid the entire thing because it looks overwhelming, or I don’t think I have time to get through all the information in front of me.

This question is one that I’ve been asked, and I myself have asked, numerous times over the course of my PhD. Public engagement and patient involvement are both areas of academic life that are getting increased focus; we know that involving patients and members of the public in our research can strengthen it, make the work we’re doing more relevant to the people that we’re doing it for, but could this involvement impact on recruitment rates too? I’m not sure, but I’m really interested to see the results of a few projects that are linked to this question that are currently ongoing – the PIRRIST study led by Dr Joanna Crocker is one I’ll be keeping an eye out for. The PIRRIST protocol was presented as a poster at a conference I went to in 2015, that information is published here if you’re interested in learning more.

Something to note

The appendix of the paper contains a full version of the table below, this provides details on the evidence that we already have available to us to help answer each of the top 10 questions. The top 3, which I’ve discussed above, have no evidence available – which really drives home the importance of a formal prioritisation process in highlighting where the gaps are in research evidence.

There is certainly a lot more work to be done on how we recruit participants into randomised trials – which is good for me as I want to stay in this field of research after my PhD, and hopefully get some of these questions answered over the course of my career!

A Trip to Buckingham Palace (Yes, Really!)

Just before Christmas we had an all Unit photograph at work – we all gathered together, fighting over places because no one wanted to be in the front row. Looking around I felt really lucky, I am so, so, lucky to be doing my PhD in an environment filled with such brilliant colleagues. After the photograph had been taken, I went to walk out of the building and back to the open plan office I work in, that was until Prof Craig Ramsay, HSRU Director pulled me aside and said he had something to talk to me about. Genuinely, my first thought was ‘Oh God, can you get fired from a PhD?’, shortly followed by, ‘Did I ever put anything awful on Twitter?’.

Thankfully, neither of those thoughts lasted long – Craig was explaining to me and my friend and fellow PhD student, Beatriz, that HSRU and HERU (the Health Economics Research Unit) – both based at the University of Aberdeen – had won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize, and the two of us had been selected to represent the HSRU’s postgraduate students.

Fast forward about 6 weeks, and this arrived:

Apparently the whole going to Buckingham Palace thing wasn’t a joke.

Anyway, that led to a few weeks of pondering what to wear, where to get my nails done, and whether my hair needed a new style, and last week the time came for us to head to London. Beatriz and I flew down on Wednesday morning – she had a hair appointment and I had a nail appointment (#priorities).

Thursday morning was quite possibly the most surreal morning of my life. Representatives from HSRU and HERU teams (photograph below) gathered with a sort of nervous energy in the air. We got in a taxi and asked the driver to take us to Buckingham Palace, we even had a car pass that meant he would drop us off right outside the gates.

L-R: Me, Prof Craig Ramsay, Prof Marion Campbell, Ruben Sakowsky, Prof Mandy Ryan, Alastair Irvine, Maria Dimitrova, Beatriz Goulao

Once we were inside the Palace (it’s still weird even typing that), we handed our coats/bags (and phones! – unfortunately no selfies with the Royals this time) in, and were then guided through to The Ballroom, which was where the awards ceremony would take place.

Image taken from the @QAPrizes Twitter account.

We were given name tags (I’ve kept mine because I’m doubtful I’ll ever see my name alongside the Royal cypher ever again), and then shown to our seats, which were ready with booklets detailing the proceedings (left).

We were told by one of the guards what would happen next; when to stand, when to clap, and when to be seated. At this point everyone seemed a bit on edge, but in a really excited way – we were not sure what to expect, but we knew that we were about to experience something really special.

Prof Craig Ramsay and Prof Sir Ian Diamond, Principal of the University of Aberdeen, were up first (image below). The Queenโ€™s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education was presented to them by the Prince of Wales on behalf of the Queen, and the Duchess of Cornwall presented the Prize Certificates.

Prof Craig Ramsay receiving HSRU and HERU’s award.

After the ceremony all of the teams were taken through to another room where there were stands set up for each University, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall then came round to meet with each of the teams. Both HSRU and HERU teams were given the opportunity to discuss the research that we do in our Units with the Prince and Duchess – they were hugely engaged and interested in the work that we do. The Duchess even said that it must be really exciting to work around clinical trials; a refreshing change from the eye rolls I get when I’ve been talking about trials to my friends for too long..

Again, it was one of the most surreal mornings of my life; I flew back to Aberdeen later that evening, and was in my own bed by 11pm wondering if it had all been a very elaborate dream! I felt incredibly privileged to be representing HSRU, and it’s a day I won’t be forgetting for a very long time to come.

Now, I’d better get back to my thesis…

Thesis Writing Full Time #1: Finding My Feet

On January 30th I finished data collection for my PhD (AHHH!), on January 31st I then submitted the final report for the grant that funded the bulk of my PhD research, and since then I’ve been thesis writing full time. Honestly, I was really excited to get to this stage, and it hasn’t gone quite as expected – so I thought I’d write a blog post both to remind myself that I am less than a week in and still finding my feet with it, and to try and shed some light on the process for those that are thesis writing too (or soon will be).

The Good Bits

I’ll start with the good – I’ll ease you in gently.. Doing this thing full time means that I can sit down and really focus on what I’ve done. Before doing this, there was a lot less paper in my life, but I also didn’t have a realistic overview of how much I’ve achieved in the last 2 and a half years. I’ve collected a tonne of data, and I’ve learned to analyse and interpret it so that it might actually be useful for people in the trials community! Hoorah for learning stuff!

Thesis writing full time also means I can work when and where you want to. For me this has been brilliant because I can ensure that I’m the most productive that I can be. Before, I had brilliant intentions of getting up, showered and at my desk for 8am every day, but that just hasn’t happened. The most productive times of the day for me are 3pm until 6pm, and then after dinner until I go to bed (which can be super late). Before 3pm I do a lot of ‘pottering’ – basically, stuff that needs doing but that isn’t actually writing. Reading, finding the right references, putting together draft zeros for different chapters, all interspersed with various life admin and chores. At the weekend I’m pretty good around noon until 4pm, and because I’m able to choose when I work and when I take breaks, the whole working at the weekend thing is working out pretty well. I don’t feel like I’m going to burn out, and I’m getting through the writing at a decent pace.

I’ve also turned my office into a little thesis-writing cave, which has been so brilliant. Firstly, it gave me a kick to sort my desk space out, and secondly (most importantly) me working from home has given my other half a kick to sort out his half of the office too – I hate clutter and can’t work when there’s too much stuff around to distract me.

The desk space – yes that it a bear shaped pencil case, yes that is a dog shaped tape measure, and yes they are tiny wooden desk pets – I’m not allowed a dog and these were a hilarious replacement that arrived in the form of a Christmas gift from my parents. I am 26 and until I’m allowed a dog, this is what my desk space will continue to look like.
The Bad Bits

Ok, now on to the bad. I’ve been having a super wobbly mental health week. I always work best under pressure – i.e. juggling a million things and working from a packed To Do list, but working on the thesis entirely (I do still have some other projects running but for now my input is minimal) has alleviated all of that busy energy and self-imposed pressure, and my brain hasn’t coped very well with this new found freedom. It’s weird.

On the bright side though, the past week has already taught me a lot the coping strategies I need to implement (more on those in a later blog post). Ultimately I think that this little wobble has been a useful learning experience for me (re-reading this for typos and oh my god, have I turned into an academic now?! – ‘no failures, just learnings’), like I said it’s helping me to develop my own coping strategies, and it’ll make sure that I’m more resilient when I’m in a job where I don’t have the luxury of working from home at weird hours.

It still feels a bit weird to say that I’m writing my thesis; it doesn’t feel like I’ve been doing my PhD long enough for it to be that time yet – so, so weird. Anyway, I have a chapter of qualitative research to write, so I’ll leave this one here.
I’ll be posting a few blogs posts as I go through this process, but if there’s a big gap between postings just assume I’m sat at my desk, typing away with a hot water bottle on my knee.

A Day at the Wellcome Collection, London

Last week I was in London for an interview (hopefully more on that later, but until I find out the results of said interview let’s skip over that..). The flight down from Aberdeen was super early and I didn’t fly back until 7.30pm, so I spent the majority of the day at the Wellcome Collection.

Every time I’m in London I mean to come to the Wellcome Collection, but I’m usually so pushed for time that it ends up falling off my itinerary in favour of the stuff that I’m actually in London for. Anyway, with a decent amount of spare time I was delighted to be able to have lunch in the Wellcome Cafe (super busy, but really friendly staff and the best sweet potato salad I’ve ever eaten), spend money I shouldn’t be spending in the Wellcome Shop (everything is gorgeous and I need all of the books and science stuff that they sell), catch up on emails and have a mooch around the Wellcome Library, and have a look around the exhibits before heading back to the airport.

The Wellcome Library

I got a free day pass to use the library and wifi, and honestly, I wish this library was closer to home for me. You can’t take in coats/bags etc, you leave your belongings in a locker outside the library, and take what you need in (laptop, charger etc) in a clear plastic bag. This is the best thing ever. At first I was a bit weirded out by this, but when I got into the library it made more sense. There’s no clutter anywhere, people are working away without ‘stuff’ everywhere, and all of the stuff you do in an effort to procrastinate and avoid work is locked up. I found the library a really good place to do work in; I hate working in cluttered environments because I find it hard to concentrate, so this was perfect. I got through a tonne of emails, a few bits of my to do list, and then went for a wander around.

Exhibits at the Wellcome Collection

I missed the ‘Can Graphic Design Change Your Life?’ exhibition, it finished on the 14th of this month and I’m still not over it – if you’re interested in that I’d recommend Chloe Turner’s blog post here which gives a good summary (and some sneaky photos) of the exhibit. Anyway, what I did see were the Medicine Man, Medicine Now, and Ayurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian medicine exhibitions.

Medicine Now was my favourite of the exhibits, and the one I was most impressed with. It offered something for everyone, there was an activity station at the back where children (and adults!) were playing and making postcards to communicate their feedback (left).

The Medicine Now exhibit also had some ridiculously cool exhibits aimed at increasing understanding of the human body. First – this slice of human, yes, it’s a slice of an actual human being. When the person died they donated their body to science, and the fluids in their body were replaced with plastics to allowed a clean cut to be made. This is a controversial technique, but if it’s your thing I’d also recommend trying to get to a Body Worlds exhibition. I went to one at the Centre for Life in Newcastle a few years ago and it was fantastic.

Behind the slice of body (wow, that does sound gross) above, you can see a transparent model of a body, complete with organs, blood vessels and bones. In my opinion this was the best bit of the entire exhibit. By the body’s feet was a panel of buttons, no instructions, just buttons. Clearly my curiosity got the better of me and I went on to press each and every one of the buttons in front of me – thankfully, that was the idea. When I pressed the buttons, the corresponding organ lit up. I took a little video clip for Instagram so you can see what I mean:

As well as the super cool bodies, Dolly the sheep made an appearance (well, her front-page Time magazine, some droppings and a handful of wool, as did a wall of chromosomes made out of socks.

If you’re in London and have a few hours to spare, I’d definitely recommend heading to the Wellcome Collection! The Medicine Now exhibit is permanent and free.

Organisation for PhD Success: Task Management

A few months ago I published a post on organisation to do with reading and referencing – that post was triggered by a conversation with my friend and fellow PhD student Lyuba (side-note, she’s started blogging – hoorah! Check out her blog here). This is the second post that came out of that conversation – how on Earth to keep track of all the things that you juggle as a PhD student?

Over the past 2 and a half years I’ve tried lots of different things, some have stuck, and others lasted little more than a week. Now I have a pretty set way to organise and keep track of everything; I’ve been using this method for about 18 months or so and it’s working well. I’m hoping that this post will help those of you who are struggling to keep track of multiple projects, and might encourage you to get a structured method of organisation in place going forward.

Working from a single, continual to do list

This is the thing that most people disagree with – but give me a chance. I work from one single to do list that never ends. It covers PhD work, other project work that I’m involved with, public engagement stuff, blog posts I want to write, Science On A Postcard work, household chores, self-care stuff, everything.

Previously, I’ve split tasks into different to do lists – one for work, one for home for example. That didn’t really work for me because I was spending too much time writing the lists, sorting tasks into lists, and then attempting to keep up with them all. One continual to do list means that everything I need to get done is written down in one place – granted, if I lose the list everything becomes a nightmare, but luckily that hasn’t happened yet! That list spans includes everything, at the moment it includes: ‘manicure before Thursday’, ‘book dentist appointment’, ‘drop dry cleaning off’, ‘finish systematic review chapter edits’, ‘review comments for journal manuscript’, ‘pay for writing retreat’, ‘upload new products to Etsy‘, ‘check interview location for Thursday’, ‘buy batteries for hallway clock’… I could go on.

I use a small To Do list pad I got from Paperchase last yearย  (left)- it’s nothing fancy, it was pretty cheap, and I don’t mind scribbling in it. It’s also got little boxes at the end of each line, meaning I can tick tasks off and easily see what’s done/needs doing. At the start of every year I used to spend so much money on stationery in an effort to get organised, none of those tools ever worked as well as this single list pad.

Long term tasks

When I spoke to Lyuba a few months ago, I explained the wonder of my single to do list, and she said ‘but what about really long term tasks?’. When she first asked I didn’t think that I had any one to keep track of these, but when I thought about it, I’m doing this without actively thinking about it. I use the desktop version of Outlook on my computer at work, and the Office 365 version at home – to track long term tasks that don’t fit on my single to do list, I use the ‘tasks’ function on Outlook.

For really long term tasks, I track these as ‘no date’ tasks – and the fact they’re on the list means that I’m still aware of them, but might not be actively be working on them. Other tasks get ‘next week’ or a custom date, which tends to be the following month. I check these tasks regularly because they’re right there when I’m writing and sending emails, which means that I don’t forget those tasks that I’ve said I’ll do months into the future.

Tracking your time

I’m aware that I’m in danger of looking like an organisation freak at this point, but my methods seem to be working so hopefully they’re helpful, rather than just something that people can mock.. Anyway, alongside my to do list and long term tasks list, I’ve started to block periods of time out of my calendar too. I use an Outlook calendar which is also on my iPhone too. At the start of each week I sit down and figure out when all my meetings are, what tasks need doing, and when I’m going to achieve each of those tasks.

An example week looks something like this:

This started because I was writing to do lists for each day, but I was finding it hard to strike the balance between lists that were too long (i.e. days when I had lots of meetings and not much time to get through work), or too short (i.e. days when I had no meetings, where I’d end up ‘finishing’ my daily to do list early on in the day). Blocking out pieces of time helps me to manage what I’m getting done and when, and also means that I’m more likely to say ‘no’ to things that aren’t working towards my goals for the day. Saying no isn’t something I like doing a lot a work, but with my thesis hand in date getting closer all the time, I’m finding that I really need to get my head down and write rather than helping out with this project and that. Blocking out a few hours to write makes me think twice about saying yes straight away – and that’s something I think a lot of postgraduate students need to do more often.

How do you keep track of everything that goes into your day-to-day life? Are you a fan of to do lists, or do you track everything through your phone? Leave a comment below – let’s share tips ๐Ÿ™‚

Publication Explainer: Routinely Collected Data for Randomized Trials: Promises, Barriers, and Implications

This week I had a new publication come out – hoorah! Told you that all the effort I put towards my 2017 goals would pay off eventually. In another post later on in the year I’ll explain what my experiences have been like as a co-author on a publication, as well as what it’s like to be a first author, but today I want to use this post as a starting point for a new series on my blog. I’ll add to this ‘Publication Explainer’ series whenever I have a new publication out, and these posts will be a place for me to answer 3 of the most common questions I’ve been asked by people around me (here I mean colleagues that haven’t worked in this field, other scientists, non-scientists.. basically anyone who doesn’t work in the same research area as I do).

What is routinely collected data?

When we’re taking about health, routinely collected data (RCD) refers to data that has been collected during routine practice – basically, the stuff that your doctor adds to your medical record. This could be height, weight, blood type, blood pressure, blood levels, drug dosages, symptom frequency… the list goes on. As technology improves, RCD can also refer to things like number of steps, time spent sitting down, time spent standing etc – the sorts of things that a fitness tracker collects.

Why should we use routinely collected data in trials?

Routinely collected data could enable us to do trials better; whether that means more cheaply, with reduced patient burden, with less work for the trial team, more quickly, more environmentally friendly.. whatever ‘better’ means. This area of research is of particular interest to me because I’m trying to solve the problem of poor recruitment to trials. Recruiting volunteers to take part in trials is difficult, and if we can somehow design trials that are integrated into existing care pathways so that patients don’t have additional clinic visits to go to, then problems with recruitment could be solved much more quickly. In theory, we could design a trial that is fully integrated into routine care – meaning that when you visit your doctor and they collect data from you, that data can go straight to the trial team without the need for the patient to come in to the clinic on a separate occasion, which is what usually happens in trials.
This has been done before, the most well-known trial being the Salford Lung Study. This pioneering study involved over 2,800 consenting patients, supported by 80 GP practices and 130 pharmacies in Salford and the surrounding Greater Manchester area. You can read more about it here.

Ease isn’t the only reason to use RCD in trials. There is a huge field of research into what we call ‘pragmatic trials’.

Every trial sits somewhere on a spectrum from ‘explanatory’ to ‘pragmatic’. ‘Explanatory’ being used to describe trials that aim to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention (a drug, a device, a type of surgery, or a lifestyle intervention like an exercise or diet change) in a well-defined and controlled setting. ‘Pragmatic’ being used to describe trials that aim to test the effectiveness of an intervention in routine practice – i.e. some people might not take their tablets as directed, they’ll likely skip an exercise every now and again, they might forget to pick prescriptions up or get their doses mixed up – these trials reflect real life. The more pragmatic a trial is, the more likely that the results of that trial will then translate into the real world if/when the intervention is rolled out for public use. Using routinely collected data could help to ensure that trials are more pragmatic.

Why aren’t we already using routinely collected data in trials?

The idea of using routinely collected data in trials sounds perfect, right? Patients won’t have to go to clinic visits, trials will recruit more easily, therefore they’ll be completed faster and more cheaply, trials will be more pragmatic – why aren’t we already using RCD in trials?

If only it were that simple! Just because data are collected, doesn’t mean that researchers are able to access it, never mind access it in a useful format at the time that they need it. There are lots of concerns about using RCD in trials as standard, but these issues are likely to be overcome at some point in the future (as for time, that’s the big unknown – it could be 50 years, could be longer!). This is an exciting field of research, and one that I’ll be keeping a close eye on over the next few years.

BioMedCentral as a publishing group is open-access meaning that their publications are not hidden behind paywalls, if you’d like to read the full paper you can find it here.

I also wanted to flag up a blog post that Lars and Kim wrote to go along with the publication, essentially it’s a more condensed, relaxed and easy to understand version of the paper – you can read that here.