This project raises awareness of flaws in the current medical research system that diminish the value of research and often result in significant financial loss: asking the wrong questions, poor research designs, unpublished negative results, poorly reported findings. Through its website and articles published in peer-reviewed journals, the project aims to encourage discussions about medical research practices and effect changes that increase the value of research and decrease the occurrence of wasted research.
The project addresses how the entire process of medical research (from agenda setting to sharing results to evaluation) can become more effective, transparent and inclusive. One solution is to increase diversity by including patients and medical caregivers in setting the research agenda. The website brings attention to certain flaws in the research enterprise, such as the lack of diversity in research topics, portfolios and perspectives.
Through the project’s website documentation, information, and resources on how to increase the value of research is shared, as well as on how to reduce or avoid wasting research. In its series of five articles published in The Lancet, the project recommends more transparency in research processes, beginning by making information (publicly) available about how research funders decide what research to support and what research protocols or analysis plans are chosen, to sharing raw data to promote reuse of original datasets.
Many research practices have unintended negative consequences. The website opens up discussion on current practices that require thoughtful consideration of possible outcomes to avoid wasted effort. The project also reflects on motivations, both good and bad, that drive researchers, research funders, pharmaceutical companies, regulators and institutions in biomedical research. Economic pressures and desires to maximise pharmaceutical and publishing industry profits encourage distorted trial designs and dissemination of poor research.
A series of five papers written by groups of stakeholders from different parts of the research and innovation process were published in The Lancet, a high-profile journal. They showed how problems in medical research arise in various parts of the process and require a collaborative approach to address them. Since then the project has also linked in with other initiatives such as the AllTrials campaign, which argues that all trials and all results need to be reported. Key figures of the project have set out a range of recommendations that explain what changes should be made to existing structures and systems.
One of the main results has been a symposium held by the Department of Health and The Lancet to discuss the issues addressed by the website and the lecture series. The symposium was attended by senior representatives from across the medical research field (policymakers, funders, researchers, journal editors) – the issue of waste in medical research has been put on the agenda.
Working together, high-profile stakeholders from various backgrounds can get an issue on the map, even if it addresses shortcomings in the values and culture of their own professional community. Collaboration between stakeholders is vital for initiatives that strive for change towards RRI.