Assessing the impact of a research funder’s recommendation to consider core outcome sets

Hughes, KL ORCID: 0000-0002-8517-8996, Kirkham, J ORCID: 0000-0003-2579-9325, Clarke, M and Williamson, PR ORCID: 0000-0001-9802-6636
(2019) Assessing the impact of a research funder’s recommendation to consider core outcome sets. PLoS One, 14 (9).

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Background Core outcome sets (COS) have the potential to reduce waste in research by improving the consistency of outcomes measured in trials of the same health condition. However, this reduction in waste will only be realised through the uptake of COS by clinical trialists. Without uptake, the continued development of COS that are not implemented may add to waste in research. Funders of clinical trials have the potential to have an impact on COS uptake by recommending their use to those applying for funding. The aim of our study was to assess the extent to which applicants followed the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme’s recommendation to search for a COS to include in their clinical trial. Methods and findings We examined the outcomes section and detailed project descriptions of all 95 researcher-led primary research applications submitted to the NIHR HTA between January 2012, when the recommendation to search for a COS was included in the guidance for applicants, and December 2015 for evidence that a search for a COS had taken place and rationale for outcome choice in the absence of COS. A survey of applicants was conducted to further explore their use of COS and choice of outcomes with a response rate of 49%. Nine out of 95 applicants (10%) stated in their application that they had searched the COMET (Core Outcome Measures for Effectiveness Trials) Initiative database for a COS and another nine referred to searching for a COS using another method, e.g. a review of the literature. Of the 77 (81%) applicants that did not mention COMET or COS in their application, eight stated in the survey that they had searched the COMET database and ten carried out a search using another method. Some applicants who did not search for a COS gave reasons for their choice of outcomes including taking advice from patients and the public and choosing outcomes used in previous trials. Conclusion A funding body can have an impact on COS uptake by encouraging trialists to search for a COS. Funders could take further steps by putting processes in place to prompt applicants to be explicit about searching for COS in their application and notifying the funding board if a search has not taken place. The sources of information used by trialists to make decisions about outcomes in the absence of COS may suggest methods of dissemination for COS.

Item Type: Article
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2019 08:22
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2022 02:13
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222418
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