There is no perfect study, but for the purposes of a research collaborative project, certain types of projects have been shown to work well in the early stages of the collaborative. This may help trainees develop their own ideas:
Short term data collection (e.g. primary outcome at 1 month or less). This is because the shorter the length of the study, the easier it is to engage trainees to carry out the project and complete data collection before they move onto their next job
Common pathologies. The more common the problem being investigated, the easier it will be to recruit adequate numbers of patients across many centres.
Observational studies.i.e. where clinical practice is not being changed as part of the study. Sometimes termed cohort studies. Sometimes this data can be obtained from audit. The advantage of these types of studies is that ethical approval and funding may not always be required. To produce higher levels of evidence, interventional studies (e.g. randomized controlled trials) are important but observational studies still have an important role, particularly in generating hypotheses.
Interventional studies – if randomising patients to one arm or another, ensure that the majority of clinicians have “equipoise”. I.e. that at each centre, the lead clinician has genuine uncertainty over whether the interventions under investigation are better than one another and that they would be happy to randomise patients to either of the interventions. If many clinicians have strong preferences for one intervention or another, the study will not recruit well.
For interventional studies – the simpler the intervention and the easier it will be to administer as part of clinical practice, the more likely the study will be successful. Studies which require significant deviation from clinical practice and require specialist skills not usually available are more difficult.
Once the collaborative has successfully delivered observational studies, there can be a greater emphasis on interventional studies and once interventional studies have been delivered, there can be a greater emphasis on complex interventions. However if the right idea and study is suggested, whether it is interventional or observational, it will be taken forward.