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The Centre for Statistics in Medicine (CSM) has been awarded £2.5m by Cancer Research UK to advance a programme of work for research on research, developing crucial methodology and key guidelines for excellent medical research.

Shaping medical care through innovative methodology 1

The impact of research on research work is far reaching and the outcomes of this multi-tiered project will underpin the quality of future research, not only in cancer research but well beyond it.

Professor Gary Collins will lead the five-year programme grant focusing on developing methods and reporting for prognostic models and early diagnosis, particularly in artificial intelligence and machine learning. All the planned projects are all aimed at improving the quality and reliability of the cancer research literature, and thus will be of considerable practical benefit to cancer researchers (and beyond), clinicians, policy makers, and patients.

He says: “After a difficult 12 months, following the passing of long-term collaborator and founding CSM Director, Professor Doug Altman, who previously led the grant, I’m absolutely delighted that we have secured funding from Cancer Research UK to continue our programme of research to improve statistical methodology and reporting of medical research. We have an exciting programme of research, with a primary focus on improving the conduct and reporting of studies of prognosis – particularly of studies using artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

The programme of research will also foster the development of reporting guidelines to support researchers to deliver better research. Following an extensive evaluation of reporting in the published oncology literature using machine learning and artificial intelligence, a tailored version of TRIPOD will be developed, along with explicit guidance on how to use the guideline with examples of good reporting to help researchers. 

Interestingly to the project, CSM hosts the EQUATOR Network, an international initiative aiming to improve the reliability and value of published health research through transparent and accurate reporting and wider use of robust reporting guidelines.

EQUATOR will be instrumental to the dissemination of all reporting guidelines arising from this research, as well as in delivering training to researchers on all the things that ensure research is well done and well written, maximising quality and uptake by healthcare professionals and policy-makers.

Cancer Research UK stands out as one of the very few funders supporting research on research, promoting better research at the onset.

“We are incredibly grateful to CR UK for their commitment to funding research which is at the core of all other research – methodology. Very few programme grants support this type of research and recognition by this funder of the importance of methodology is refreshing and frankly, superb!”, says Professor Collins.