Thanks to pioneers like David Sackett, Kay Dickerson and Doug Altman, Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) has brought immense improvements in medical and health research. The hard work of pushing for change is continued by thriving initiatives by patients, researchers and clinicians along with the support of several institutions and journals. Of course, big problems remain. In tackling these issues, health research has a lot to learn from other disciplines and the wider Open Science movement.
To make sure that patients and the public benefit from the research they help to fund, we need to do more to improve the whole research landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the problems with medical research even more apparent, and we cannot put off addressing these problems any longer.
In 2019, we took part in a collaboration that led to the ‘Declaration to Improve Biomedical and Health Research’. We proposed that three basic open science practices should be prioritised for widespread adoption. These measures are not new ideas and were not originated by the collaboration, but they were selected as actions that are available right now to improve the transparency and quality of health research. These are:
By promoting the Declaration, our aim is to have these open science practices become more commonly used throughout medical and health research, and in turn improving the quality of research in this area. These actions won’t solve all the problems currently affecting health research, but they would be a start.
Progress to Date
Since the Declaration went live in October 2019, we have promoted our message through multiple mediums, including (@ImproveHealthR), and by presenting at conferences (REWARD|EQUATOR in February 2020 and Reproducibility, Replicability and Trust in Science in September 2020). We’ve talked about the aims of our Declaration in articles published by The Conversation, BMJ, and Times Higher Education, and we’ve also published a review paper that surveys the problems in health research and outlines our proposed approach to tackling them. Over 80 individuals and organisations have now signed the Declaration, including Health Watch, EbM-Netzwerk (German EBM network), and Oxford-Brazil EBM Alliance. The Declaration has also been translated into German, Portuguese, and Arabic.
We need your help
Now we need to start pushing forward to implement these actions. On 27th April 2021, we will be collaborating with the Center for Open Science to host our first Hackathon. At the Hackathon we will be discussing the Registered Reports format and we will invite attendees to join us in writing to medical and health journals asking them to adopt the Registered Report publication format. We hope by the end of 2021, that at least one of these journals will pledge to adopt the Registered Report publication format in the future.
If you are interested in helping health research change for the better and would like to take part in our Hackathon, please book your place here.
We would like to thank the Center for Open Science for their encouragement, advice and support, particularly Melissa Kline and David Mellor.
If you would like to find out more about our campaign, or to support us as a signatory please visit improvehealthresearch.com/declaration. Or feel free to get in touch with steering group members to feedback or to find out more about getting involved:
Steering group members
Kelly Lloyd is a PhD researcher at the University of Leeds and she also leads the University of Leeds ReproducibiliTea journal Club.
Stephen Bradley is a General Practitioner (Family Physician) and a PhD researcher.
Georgia Richards is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Global Centre on Healthcare and Urbanisation, Kellogg College, at the University of Oxford.
Peter Gill is a Paediatrician, an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto and Senior Associate at the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, Oxford.
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