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Introduction to
Evidence-Based
Research
Outline
1. Definition of Evidence-Based Research (EBR)
2. The Scientific Ideal
3. The Assumption
4. The Evidence
5. The Suggested Solution
6. The Impact
The scientific ideal (1)
"If I have seen farther it is by
standing on the
shoulders of giants"
• Sir Isaac Newton wrote these famous words in
a letter to Robert Hooke on 15th February 1676.
• He was referring to influential scientists before
him such as Copernicus, Galilei and Kepler.
• The ideal: Science is cumulative with each
new discovery dependent on previous
knowledge ‘Newton’, Sculpture by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi
The scientific ideal (2)
“If, as is sometimes supposed, science consisted in nothing
but the laborious accumulation of facts, it would soon come to
a standstill, crushed, as it were, under its own weight……
The work which deserves, but I am afraid does not always
receive, the most credit is that in which discovery and
explanation go hand in hand, in which not only are new facts
presented, but their relation to old ones is pointed out.”
• The ideal: Each new result needs to be interpreted in the
context of earlier research
Lord Rayleigh at the 54th meeting of the
British Association for the Advancement
of Science held in Montreal in 1884.
(Thanks to I. Chalmers, LV Hedges, H Cooper, 2002)
The scientific ideal (3)
“Why do scientists think that new research is better, or more
insightful, or more powerful? The underlying assumption must be
that new studies will incorporate and improve upon lessons
learned from earlier work. Novelty in and of itself is shallow without
links to the past….For science to be cumulative, an intermediate
step between past and future research is necessary:
SYNTHESIS OF EXISTING EVIDENCE”
• The ideal: all new studies are based on a systematic
review of earlier similar studies
Harvard University Press 1984
The assumption
The assumption
The evidence (1)
How often do scientific authors
refer to the totality of earlier
research?
• 55% cited no trials even
though they could
potentially refer to 3 or
more studies within the
same area
• the median number of
references for earlier
studies was consistently 2
• The problem: systematic
and transparent approach is
rarely used when referencing
earlier similar trials
Robinson KA and Goodman SN, Ann Intern Med. 2011
The evidence (2)
Are systematic reviews of existing studies
used to see if a new study is required?
• Meta‐epidemiological, descriptive
cross‐sectional study analysing RCTs
published in high impact anaesthesiology
journals between 2014 and 2016.
• Less than ⅕ explicitly mentioned a
systematic review as justification for the new
study
• 44% did not cite a single systematic review
• The problem: a systematic and
transparent approach is rarely used to
justify new studies
Engelking A, Cavar M and Puljak L. Eur J Pain. 2018
The evidence (3)
Do previous systematic reviews guide the
research agenda?
• Retrospective study using application for
funding to see if a systematic review used
in the planning and design of new RCTs
• 37 trials (77.1%) referenced a SR
• 20 of these (i.e. 41.7% of the total) used
information in the systematic review in the
design or planning of the new study
• The problem: a systematic and
transparent approach is rarely used to
design new studies
Bhurke S et al., BMC Med Res Methodol. 2015
The evidence (4)
How often do scientific authors put their
results in the context of earlier similar
research?
• Retrospective study showed that most
randomised studies published in the
month of May in the top 5 high impact
journals made no systematic attempt to
set their results in context with no
improvement over time.
• The problem: systematic and
transparent approach rarely used
when placing new results in the
context of existing results from
earlier similar trials
Clarke M and Hopewell S, J Bahrain Medical Society. 2013
Classification of Discussion sections in reports of randomised studies
published in May in Annals of Internal Medicine, BMJ, JAMA, Lancet
and NEJM
Some thoughts
• To embark on research without systematically reviewing the evidence of
what is already known, particularly when the research involves people or
animals, is unethical, unscientific, and wasteful.
• We fully acknowledge that most of the time clinical researchers refer to
previous studies and try to do it correctly - however the evidence shows
that researchers, research funders, regulators, sponsors and publishers
of research fail to use earlier research when preparing to start, fund,
regulate, sponsor or publish the results of new studies.
The suggested solution
• To implement «systematicity» and «transparency» in all phases of research.
• To make sure that research is valuable, i.e. “relevant” and “necessary”.
• To achieve this an international group of researchers established the Evidence-
Based Research Network (EBRNetwork) in Bergen in December 2014.
• EVBRES (EVidence-Based RESearch) is 4 year (2018-2022) EU-funded COST
action aimed at creating an international European-based network to raise
awareness of the need to use systematic reviews when planning new studies and
when placing new results in context.
• Sustainability of EVBRES is secured by the EBRNetwork.
The impact
By building on the existing body of evidence and presenting results in
context an Evidenced-Based Research approach will:
• help to prevent research waste by making research more relevant, more
ethical and more worthwhile
• reduce false positives (type 1 error) and medical reversals
• focus money spent on research improving resource allocation
• make better evidence available for informed choices
• help with how clinical trials are reported in the media
• restore end user trust in research.
Stakeholders (especially clinical researchers) will need to invest in
learning the knowledge and skills to be evidence-based, however
they will gain more interesting and relevant research.
The impact
In 1994 Prof. Doug Altman
expressed the need for less but
better research. Evidence-Based
Research will help make this a
reality:
• better research for same money
• research not for research sake
but research for society.
“We need less research,
better research, and
research done for the right
reasons”.
Professor Doug Altman, 1994
Thank you

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Introduction to Evidence-Based Research: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

  • 2. Outline 1. Definition of Evidence-Based Research (EBR) 2. The Scientific Ideal 3. The Assumption 4. The Evidence 5. The Suggested Solution 6. The Impact
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  • 4. The scientific ideal (1) "If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" • Sir Isaac Newton wrote these famous words in a letter to Robert Hooke on 15th February 1676. • He was referring to influential scientists before him such as Copernicus, Galilei and Kepler. • The ideal: Science is cumulative with each new discovery dependent on previous knowledge ‘Newton’, Sculpture by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi
  • 5. The scientific ideal (2) “If, as is sometimes supposed, science consisted in nothing but the laborious accumulation of facts, it would soon come to a standstill, crushed, as it were, under its own weight…… The work which deserves, but I am afraid does not always receive, the most credit is that in which discovery and explanation go hand in hand, in which not only are new facts presented, but their relation to old ones is pointed out.” • The ideal: Each new result needs to be interpreted in the context of earlier research Lord Rayleigh at the 54th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held in Montreal in 1884. (Thanks to I. Chalmers, LV Hedges, H Cooper, 2002)
  • 6. The scientific ideal (3) “Why do scientists think that new research is better, or more insightful, or more powerful? The underlying assumption must be that new studies will incorporate and improve upon lessons learned from earlier work. Novelty in and of itself is shallow without links to the past….For science to be cumulative, an intermediate step between past and future research is necessary: SYNTHESIS OF EXISTING EVIDENCE” • The ideal: all new studies are based on a systematic review of earlier similar studies Harvard University Press 1984
  • 9. The evidence (1) How often do scientific authors refer to the totality of earlier research? • 55% cited no trials even though they could potentially refer to 3 or more studies within the same area • the median number of references for earlier studies was consistently 2 • The problem: systematic and transparent approach is rarely used when referencing earlier similar trials Robinson KA and Goodman SN, Ann Intern Med. 2011
  • 10. The evidence (2) Are systematic reviews of existing studies used to see if a new study is required? • Meta‐epidemiological, descriptive cross‐sectional study analysing RCTs published in high impact anaesthesiology journals between 2014 and 2016. • Less than ⅕ explicitly mentioned a systematic review as justification for the new study • 44% did not cite a single systematic review • The problem: a systematic and transparent approach is rarely used to justify new studies Engelking A, Cavar M and Puljak L. Eur J Pain. 2018
  • 11. The evidence (3) Do previous systematic reviews guide the research agenda? • Retrospective study using application for funding to see if a systematic review used in the planning and design of new RCTs • 37 trials (77.1%) referenced a SR • 20 of these (i.e. 41.7% of the total) used information in the systematic review in the design or planning of the new study • The problem: a systematic and transparent approach is rarely used to design new studies Bhurke S et al., BMC Med Res Methodol. 2015
  • 12. The evidence (4) How often do scientific authors put their results in the context of earlier similar research? • Retrospective study showed that most randomised studies published in the month of May in the top 5 high impact journals made no systematic attempt to set their results in context with no improvement over time. • The problem: systematic and transparent approach rarely used when placing new results in the context of existing results from earlier similar trials Clarke M and Hopewell S, J Bahrain Medical Society. 2013 Classification of Discussion sections in reports of randomised studies published in May in Annals of Internal Medicine, BMJ, JAMA, Lancet and NEJM
  • 13. Some thoughts • To embark on research without systematically reviewing the evidence of what is already known, particularly when the research involves people or animals, is unethical, unscientific, and wasteful. • We fully acknowledge that most of the time clinical researchers refer to previous studies and try to do it correctly - however the evidence shows that researchers, research funders, regulators, sponsors and publishers of research fail to use earlier research when preparing to start, fund, regulate, sponsor or publish the results of new studies.
  • 14. The suggested solution • To implement «systematicity» and «transparency» in all phases of research. • To make sure that research is valuable, i.e. “relevant” and “necessary”. • To achieve this an international group of researchers established the Evidence- Based Research Network (EBRNetwork) in Bergen in December 2014. • EVBRES (EVidence-Based RESearch) is 4 year (2018-2022) EU-funded COST action aimed at creating an international European-based network to raise awareness of the need to use systematic reviews when planning new studies and when placing new results in context. • Sustainability of EVBRES is secured by the EBRNetwork.
  • 15. The impact By building on the existing body of evidence and presenting results in context an Evidenced-Based Research approach will: • help to prevent research waste by making research more relevant, more ethical and more worthwhile • reduce false positives (type 1 error) and medical reversals • focus money spent on research improving resource allocation • make better evidence available for informed choices • help with how clinical trials are reported in the media • restore end user trust in research. Stakeholders (especially clinical researchers) will need to invest in learning the knowledge and skills to be evidence-based, however they will gain more interesting and relevant research.
  • 16. The impact In 1994 Prof. Doug Altman expressed the need for less but better research. Evidence-Based Research will help make this a reality: • better research for same money • research not for research sake but research for society. “We need less research, better research, and research done for the right reasons”. Professor Doug Altman, 1994