By focusing on developing innovative methods, we aim to improve the quality of all future research.
Every study is unique and each comes with different challenges. A goal of the methods theme is to ensure that the bespoke methods-oriented solutions we routinely create and implement reach a wider audience. Novel methods can be used to fine-tune any aspect of conducting research from evaluating strategies for improving recruitment or retention, to exploring how complex interventions work, to developing new statistical methods for the analysis and explanation of trial data. These can be approached from a qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods perspective.
Our main areas of methodological expertise are:
- outcome measurement (including both developing novel assessment tool and amending existing measures)
- complex intervention development
- evaluating and researching in complex environments
- novel seamless trial designs to assess novel therapies in an efficient manner
- factorial trial designs to assess more than one treatment at once
- Biomarker driven trials – evaluating different treatment pathways based upon patient characteristics, or response to treatment.
Building on niche expertise
We will progress these areas by focussing on:
- exploiting routine data to provide outcomes for trials
- incorporating novel trial design into the evaluation framework for complex interventions, and also in rare conditions
- further developing study designs evaluating the benefit of individualising interventions to patients or services.
Helping make studies better designed
As well covering these specific areas, we define methods as any work that has broader implications for the conduct, analysis or dissemination of future or current studies. This can be operationalised as research which is primarily aimed at changing the practice or knowledge of other researchers. i.e. the key stakeholders of the research are fellow researchers. This will involve education and communication; demonstrating to often very experienced researchers that a more modern approach is worthwhile and represents an improvement on familiar tradition. A key measure of whether we have succeeded is whether more modern trial designs are taken forward more widely.
We expect to be able to disseminate our methods work through presentations (both externally and internally) and publications in the scientific literature and beyond. In addition, we want to encourage and support methods PhDs within the Centre for Trials Research and beyond.