The Fair Comparisons Network
A collaboration to promote informed critical thinking about treatment claims
The Fair Comparisons Network has been convened by the TTi English editorial group funded by the English National Institute for Health Research, and the Informed Health Choices project funded by the Research Council of Norway.
The aim of the Fair Comparisons Network is to bring together people interested in promoting critical thinking about treatment claims. The group will collaborate on:
- identifying and cataloguing existing resources for promoting critical thinking about treatment claims
- developing new resources to promote critical thinking about treatment claims
- evaluating the effectiveness of these resources.
What works best in teaching people how to assess treatment claims?
There are plenty of learning and teaching resources designed to improve lay understanding of research to test the effects of treatments. However, very few of these have been assessed using controlled trials to find out whether they have their intended effects on knowledge, attitudes or behaviour.
People promoting the principle of using trustworthy evidence to guide treatment choices should not acquiesce in the lack of evidence about the effects of these learning and teaching resources.
The Fair Comparisons Network has been established as a forum for people interested in evaluating and improving learning and teaching resources. Readers interested in joining the Network’s email list should notify Patricia Atkinson at [email protected].
To find out more about how you can get involved in this work, the rest of this page sets out our broad workplan for the coming years.
Workplan for TTi English, 2016-19
We are planning three main strands of development on TTi English, in partnership with the Informed Healthcare Choices Project and the Fair Comparisons Network.
- Key Concepts for critical thinking about treatment claims
- The Critical thinking and Appraisal Resource Library (CARL) of resources intended to promote learning and teaching critical thinking about treatment claims
- The Claim Evaluation Tests – multiple choice questions for assessing knowledge of the Key Concepts.
TTi English will help our colleagues around the world to maintain and develop their TT “sibling” websites in over a dozen major languages.
We invite members of the Fair Comparisons Network to help us form a multi-disciplinary alliance to improve teaching and learning how to think critically about treatment claims.
We have developed the initial version of a taxonomy of Key Concepts that people need to understand to assess treatment claims. These were published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine in 2016 .
The first version of this taxonomy will be deployed as a search and browsing tool within the CARL Database. We expect to revise it in the light of what we learn from the users of the website.
We particularly welcome feedback from Network members on the form and function of the Key Concepts.
The CARL Database
We have searched for learning resources intended to help people understand how to assess treatment claims. These are available in the Critical thinking and Appraisal Resource Library.
The CARL Database contains learning resources that:
- are freely available
- help people understand one or more of the Key Concepts
The database prioritises resources that have been rigorously evaluated. These are shown with a big green tick at the top of the lists of resources. We invite user ratings and comments, particularly with a view to recording experiences of implementation. We will also conduct experimental testing of different ways of presenting the information on the TTi English website.
We hope the Network can help us to evaluate the Database design, suggest new resources and rate or comment on existing ones, and develop new methods for assessing their effectiveness.
The Claim Evaluation Tests
The Claim Evaluation Tests are multiple-choice questions designed to assess people’s ability to think critically about treatment claims.
The Questionnaire was developed by the Informed Healthcare Choices Project as an outcome measure for a randomized trial of educational interventions in primary schools in Uganda (see below).
We intend to develop the questions further by validating them in other populations. We plan to embed them in the Testing Treatments website and invite users to help the validation process by taking the test themselves.
The Informed Health Choices project
Based on a subset of the Key Concepts, learning materials (a comic book, a teachers’ guide, games, and podcasts) have been developed initially for Ugandan primary school children and their parents.
The learning materials have been piloted and user tested in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Norway. Importantly, the effects of these learning resources are now being assessed using randomised trials.
You can find out more about this project on its website.
- Austvoll-Dahlgren A, Oxman AD, Chalmers I, Nsangi A, Glenton C, Lewin S, Morelli A, Rosenbaum S, Smeakula D and Sewankambo N. Key concepts that people need to understand to assess claims about treatment effects. Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2016; 8:112-25.
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