A formal definition of Clinical Medical Research is that it is a process of systematic inquiry, entailing the collection of data, documentation of critical information and analysis and interpretation of that data/information, with the aim of informing and developing clinical practice. Many doctors and health professionals undertake research as part of their training and indeed continue to pursue research as a senior.
In many countries, the ‘research component’ of training is mandatory for certification.
The request for research comes from many directions: patient needs and desires; government organisations; medical societies; pharmaceutical industry. Individual health professionals may wish to carry out research out of their specific interests and enthusiasm. Many however, undertake research as part of the currency required to ‘progress up an academic ladder’: the latter is often driven by their University’s approach to assessment of academic work and promotion.
This accountability of a person’s research programme, together with the need for pharmaceutical companies to investigate the impact and effect of medications and treatments, in order to register products with their appropriate countries’ authorities, has led to research over last 30 years moving from a in-house ‘cottage industry’ to ‘big business’. Research programmes require funding, often of a considerable degree, together with regulation by government and professional bodies, again requiring funding.
With the volume of research undertaken has come an explosion in the publication of information, in journals, web sites and government and societies information. The volume of research currently published has led recently to significant criticism. Dr Ben Goldacre (Bennett Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine and Director of the Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science at the University of Oxford) has gone so far as to say: ‘If you put me in charge of the medical research budget, I would cancel all primary research, I would cancel all new trials, for just one year, and I would spend the money exclusively on making sure that we make the best possible use of the clinical evidence that we already have’.
Therefore, when starting out on your individual research journey, consider the following:
Decide why you are doing the research: are you comfortable that this is appropriate for you
Think short & long: setting up a study that collects longitudinal information can be enormously invaluable
Data is gold – congratulate yourself for collecting information
However, draw appropriate conclusions and recognise bias in your research programme
Most medical research requires considerable collaboration; recognise the efforts of your Team
Most research will be additive. Do not worry if you find a negative result or results that have already been published. Be honest in your assessment of the worth of your research programme
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