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Research for the right reasons: blueprint for a better future

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Key points:

  • Ask the right research questions
  • Design and conduct research properly
  • Publish all the results and make them accessible
  • Produce unbiased and useful research reports

Graphic showing how money is wasted in research at successive stages

How the money spent on medical research is wasted at successive stages (click to enlarge).

Introduction:

Medical research has undoubtedly contributed to better quality of life and increased longevity. Nevertheless, we have illustrated how the existing ‘drivers’ for research – commercial and academic – have not done enough to identify and address patients’ priorities.

Huge sums of money – over $100 billion every year worldwide – are spent on funding medical research. [1] However, most of this funding is invested in laboratory and animal studies, rather than in studies that are likely to produce evidence more immediately relevant to patients.

Even when it comes to deciding which questions about the effects of treatments will be studied, patients’ priorities are widely ignored.

The drug industry’s financial power means it is very influential in decisions about what gets researched. Because industry can pay handsomely (thousands of pounds/dollars) for each patient recruited to its clinical trials, academics – and the institutions they work in – too often take part in clinical trials that address questions of interest to industry rather than to patients.

Regrettably, much of the money spent on medical research is wasted at successive stages – by asking the wrong research questions; by doing studies that are unnecessary or poorly designed; by failing to publish and make accessible the research results in full; and by producing biased and unhelpful research reports.

This should matter to everyone – researchers, research funders, clinicians, tax payers, and above all patients.

Before setting out our blueprint for a better future, we briefly outline why, if research is to be better, it is vitally important to:

  1. Ask the right research questions
  2. Design and conduct research properly
  3. Publish all the results and make them accessible
  4. Produce unbiased and useful research reports
  • Ichalmers

    •Wasted research (this page). Subtitle to be discussed.

    Delete ‘in this book’