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Evidence and good research, a blog by Jonathan Montgomery

Last updated on 26 Jun 2018

Jonathan MontgomeryHealth research is an exciting environment. It’s brimming with possibilities that we need to explore to know which of the ideas might prove fruitful and which of the treatments work best, and for whom. 

Sometimes even the most promising treatments disappoint, and that’s why even though we properly expect or hope for the best, we must test our expectations and hopes. Carefully designed research reduces bias, checks whether apparently exciting results are actually just luck, and helps us to understand why things have worked in the past, so that we can reliably predict when they might work in the future.  

The Health Research Authority exists to protect and promote the interests of participants, patients and the public in health and social care research, and aims to make the UK a great place to do research.

That’s important for all of us. When we use health and social care services we rightly expect those looking after us to be able to be able to draw on reliable evidence when they diagnose, advise and treat us. We want that for ourselves and for our family and friends. 

That is why we’re part of Evidence Week. I’ll be speaking before an audience of politicians, parliamentarians and people from across the science sector on Wednesday morning, to reinforce how important it is that there is good evidence for the health care that we want, now and in the future. We want evidence to be obtained as quickly, efficiently and economically as possible. We want evidence to be used to make good policy. And we want the right regulatory environment to ensure that high quality ethical research can go ahead in our mutual interests.

The HRA has a central role to play. First, we help protect against poor research. We support Research Ethics Committees that ensure projects meet the standards established to protect participants, and ensure they are informed about their opportunities to get involved. We support the Confidentiality Advisory Group that reviews the use of confidential patient information. We provide an approvals service that assures NHS organisations that they can go ahead and host studies, reducing the need for duplication of checks.

We also play a role in promoting the value of research, in all our interests.  We aim to increase the trustworthiness of research by promoting greater transparency: through registration of trials, greater availability of data for analysis, and more comprehensive and accessible publication of results. This avoids waste and enables the integrity of results to be assessed. There’s more on how we’re helping to achieve this in our recently published animation.

It all adds up to encouraging good research. We can be proud in the UK of our outstanding track record in scientific research. By making the most of our world leading skills and experience, we can provide clinicians with the quality evidence they need to support decisions that affect our parents, our partners, and our children.

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