Skip to main content


Methods: An Emerging Centre for Trials Research Theme

26 April 2016
Dr Mark Kelson, Centre for Trials Research..
Dr Mark Kelson, Centre for Trials Research.

It has been said that humans make an average of 35,000 decisions every day*. This seems like an underestimate when working in the Centre for Trials Research. Being part of a centre with 3 registered clinical trials units, we have many regulations and processes to follow; but anyone who has ever tried to answer a scientific question through trials research knows that guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures are not sufficient without critical decision making and careful thought.

As the largest group of academic clinical trials unit staff in Wales, we deliver an enormous range of study types with few of our adopted studies being similar. This heterogeneity requires bespoke solutions and creative problem solving. This intellectual heavy-lifting is critical to successfully answering the diverse questions we explore. We do this naturally in our day to day jobs, as do many other trials units around the country and world.

In doing this we discover strategies and methods with wider applicability and the methods theme is dedicated to ensuring these advances are available to others. We do this by documenting and disseminating the generalizable knowledge we produce.

By explicitly identifying methods as a theme CTR has demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of clinical trials in its widest sense. Indeed, the name itself (Centre for Trials Research) is deliberately broad and encompasses work on trials methodology, as well as individual trials delivery.

By its nature, methods work is generalizable; it crosses topics and disciplines. The natural stakeholders are fellow researchers (it is after all, their practice we wish to inform), and our goal is to contribute best practice solutions to clinical trials research. This is a lofty ambition, but one easily within our grasp given the sheer volume of clinical trials we deliver, the quality of the people in our unit and our desire to change things for the better.

Centre Research Themes
Centre for Trials Research Themes

A challenge then for every member of staff within all clinical trials units: have a methods project. Choose something that you think you or we do well. Identify something that irritates you and you feel can be done better. Commit to improving some aspect of your role for everyone. We would love if it were publishable (and therefore shareable) but that is not the only measure of success. A methods focus will help us deliver our work and improve our standards. In the same way that a research focus improves the quality of care delivered1, a methods focus will improve the quality of research we deliver.

The methods theme leads for the South East Wales Trials Unit based in the Centre for Trials Research are Dr Mark Kelson and Dr Nadine Aawar.

*this statistic is literally meaningless

  1. Selby, P., 2011. The impact of the process of clinical research on health service outcomes. Annals of Oncology, 22 (Suppl 7): vii2-vii4

 – Blog contributed by Dr Mark Kelson

 – Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkJKelson