Clinical trials: what are they and why are they important.

Randomised trials are an important research design and can provide reliable and robust evidence on the benefits, harms and costs of health care. Substantial public and charitable funding is allocated to clinical trials every year. However, there are concerns that much of this is wasted.1 The reasons for such waste include inadequate reporting of or failure to publish completed research and the conduct of new studies without placing them in the context of previous research.1,2 In addition, many trials are unable to recruit enough participants to answer a trial question, and this is one of the main reasons trials are stopped or require additional time and/or funding to complete.3,4

The evidence suggests that one of the reasons contributing to inadequate recruitment and retention to trials is a lack of public understanding of randomised trials and why they are important. This, in turn, may negatively impact public support for and participation in randomised trials.5

The COVID-19 pandemic has put science, including randomised trials, front of mind in the public consciousness. Yet, the pandemic has also highlighted the detrimental health effects of misinformation. Every day, the public is subjected to a myriad of health claims about the impact of drugs, diets, and what can cure and cause various illnesses, including cancer. These claims often spread rapidly. It can be very hard to know which claims are reliable and which are not. This makes it difficult for people to make good healthcare decisions. These decisions depend on several factors, including an understanding of clinical research and, in particular, randomised trials.

We will develop, implement and evaluate a massive open online course (MOOC) in randomised trials for the public. The MOOC will focus on what randomised trials are, how they are designed, conducted, analysed and reported and why they are important.

Award Date
12 September 2022
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Declan Devane
Host Institution
University of Galway
Knowledge Translation Awards