MiRoR project highlight – finding best research
HOW DO YOU MEASURE THE QUALITY OF RESEARCH AND WHAT DOES IT CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE?
Clinical guidelines and systematic reviews are synthesis of all the existing knowledge concerning a clinical relevant question; they are done with a precise and well established methodology. Synthesizing the results of high quality studies is the best way to address and answer the needs of healthcare consumers and patients.
While compiling a review it is important to assess the quality of the individual studies that constitute it; if you put garbage in, you will surely get garbage out. One of the main components of this concept of “quality of research” is how much the results of a study should be believed. Understanding this aspect is called by methodologists “risk of bias assessment”.
Scientific community has been using different “measuring tapes” for risk of bias, but the most accepted is the tool developed by Cochrane. The risk of bias tool measures seven specific study characteristics, which are pillars of this concept of risk of bias. The characteristics are aspects of the research conduct that should be followed in a proper way to obtain a mark of “low risk of bias”.
However, to be sure that you are doing a good work, it is important to establish that your measure is replicable by different people in different moments and settings. At the same time, you should also check that what you are measuring really matters for the others.
My PhD focuses on the assessment of risk of bias and its impact in research. In a first moment, we assessed the replicability of the assessment, trying to understand why different researchers may have disagreed on their evaluation. Following this, we examine what impact the assessment has on very practical terms. We will examine how systematic reviews are modified by different results in the risk of bias assessment.
Our results will help identify strategies to improve the risk of bias assessment and integration in systematic reviews and guidelines, facilitating the process for researchers. This will translate in a more efficient way to identify high quality research, taking results and impact directly to consumers.
My choice of this project in MiRoR was a natural step in my career. I am originally a medical doctor and in the early phase of my career, I was full-time devoted to patient care. Soon I started interrogating myself about how I could be sure if a treatment works and it was the best for my patient. This lead to my involvement in “evidence synthesis” (roughly, the brand of research developing systematic reviews and guidelines). However, soon enough I started thinking that possibly I was not using the best measuring tapes to verify that research was done well. This PhD project seemed the best way to answer my doubts.
by Lorenzo Bertizzolo, MiRoR PhD Fellow at the University Paris Descartes & University of Amsterdam