Health research

How to formulate research recommendations

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.38987.492014.94 (Published 12 October 2006)
Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:804

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  1. Polly Brown (pbrown@bmjgroup.com), publishing manager1,
  2. Klara Brunnhuber, clinical editor1,
  3. Kalipso Chalkidou, associate director, research and development2,
  4. Iain Chalmers, director3,
  5. Mike Clarke, director4,
  6. Mark Fenton, editor3,
  7. Carol Forbes, reviews manager5,
  8. Julie Glanville, associate director/information service manager5,
  9. Nicholas J Hicks, consultant in public health medicine6,
  10. Janet Moody, identification and prioritisation manager6,
  11. Sara Twaddle, director7,
  12. Hazim Timimi, systems developer8,
  13. Pamela Young, senior programme manager6
  1. 1 BMJ Publishing Group, London WC1H 9JR,
  2. 2National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, London WC1V 6NA,
  3. 3Database of Uncertainties about the Effects of Treatments, James Lind Alliance Secretariat, James Lind Initiative, Oxford OX2 7LG,
  4. 4UK Cochrane Centre, Oxford OX2 7LG,
  5. 5Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York, York YO10 5DD,
  6. 6National Coordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment, University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 7PX,
  7. 7Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, Edinburgh EH2 1EN,
  8. 8Update Software, Oxford OX2 7LG
  1. Correspondence to: PBrown
  • Accepted 22 September 2006

“More research is needed” is a conclusion that fits most systematic reviews. But authors need to be more specific about what exactly is required

Long awaited reports of new research, systematic reviews, and clinical guidelines are too often a disappointing anticlimax for those wishing to use them to direct future research. After many months or years of effort and intellectual energy put into these projects, authors miss the opportunity to identify unanswered questions and outstanding gaps in the evidence. Most reports contain only a less than helpful, general research recommendation. This means that the potential value of these recommendations is lost.

Current recommendations

In 2005, representatives of organisations commissioning and summarising research, including the BMJ Publishing Group, the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, the National Coordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, and the UK Cochrane Centre, met as members of the development group for the Database of Uncertainties about the Effects of Treatments (see bmj.com for details on all participating organisations). Our aim was to discuss the state of research recommendations within our organisations and to develop guidelines for improving the presentation of proposals for further research. All organisations had found weaknesses in the way researchers and authors of systematic reviews and clinical guidelines stated the need for further research. As part of the project, a member of the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination under-took a rapid literature search to identify information on research recommendation models, which found some individual methods but no group initiatives to attempt to standardise recommendations.

Suggested format for research recommendations on the effects of treatments

Core elements

E Evidence (What is the current state of the evidence?)

P Population (What is …

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