Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research

The trials methodological research agenda: results from a priority setting exercise

Catrin Tudur Smith1*, Helen Hickey1, Mike Clarke2, Jane Blazeby3 and Paula Williamson1

Author Affiliations

1 North West Hub for Trials Methodology Research, Department of Biostatistics, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK

2 All-Ireland Hub for Trials Methodology Research, Queen’s University, Belfast, Ireland

3 Collaboration and Innovation for Difficult or Complex Randomised Controlled Trials (ConDuCT) Hub for Trials Methodology Research, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

Trials 2014, 15:32  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-32

Published: 23 January 2014



Research into the methods used in the design, conduct, analysis, and reporting of clinical trials is essential to ensure that effective methods are available and that clinical decisions made using results from trials are based on the best available evidence, which is reliable and robust.


An on-line Delphi survey of 48 UK Clinical Research Collaboration registered Clinical Trials Units (CTUs) was undertaken. During round one, CTU Directors were asked to identify important topics that require methodological research. During round two, their opinion about the level of importance of each topic was recorded, and during round three, they were asked to review the group’s average opinion and revise their previous opinion if appropriate. Direct reminders were sent to maximise the number of responses at each round. Results are summarised using descriptive methods.


Forty one (85%) CTU Directors responded to at least one round of the Delphi process: 25 (52%) responded in round one, 32 (67%) responded in round two, 24 (50%) responded in round three. There were only 12 (25%) who responded to all three rounds and 18 (38%) who responded to both rounds two and three. Consensus was achieved amongst CTU Directors that the top three priorities for trials methodological research were ‘Research into methods to boost recruitment in trials’ (considered the highest priority), ‘Methods to minimise attrition’ and ‘Choosing appropriate outcomes to measure’. Fifty other topics were included in the list of priorities and consensus was reached that two topics, ‘Radiotherapy study designs’ and ‘Low carbon trials’, were not priorities.


This priority setting exercise has identified the research topics felt to be most important to the key stakeholder group of Directors of UKCRC registered CTUs. The use of robust methodology to identify these priorities will help ensure that this work informs the trials methodological research agenda, with a focus on topics that will have most impact and relevance.

Trials methodology; Priority setting