Poor trial compliance: What does this mean for medical students interested in research?
I read with great interest a recently published article by Goldacre et al., reporting the poor completion and compliance rates of clinical trials on the EU Clinical Trials Register (EUCTR)(1). As a medical student, I wish to highlight what this means and how it may impact us as students.
Medical students and junior doctors alike often find ways and means to boost their curriculum vitae, as a way to increase their chances of securing a specialty training spot. Aside from taking part in community involvement projects, competitive sports and arts, research serves as an important avenue for students to pick up soft skills (writing, statistics), and attain tangible achievements, such as a conference presentation or ideally a publication.
It is therefore worrying that only half of all trials reported their results, a finding previously shown in other studies(2, 3). Hence, this highlights that problems of trial delay, discontinuation, and publication continue to remain unresolved.
These trends may deter medical students from doing research for whatever reason or motivation they initially had, a dreaded consequence that impairs continuous efforts to encourage and groom young or aspiring clinician-scientists. It is hence advisable for both supervisors and students to work towards a feasible project with a realistic timescale, to prevent unnecessary wastage of time and effort, and discouragement in their academic pursuits. Students also need to appreciate that medical research comprises of an entire spectrum of study designs, from clinical trials, to observational studies, case reports, and review articles. Each offers its own unique learning experience, without compromising on the chances of securing a conference presentation or publication. It is important to understand that clinical trials are not the Be-all and End-all of research, as opportunities are aplenty for us to explore and undertake research of different designs.
1. Goldacre B, DeVito NJ, Heneghan C, Irving F, Bacon S, Fleminger J, et al. Compliance with requirement to report results on the EU Clinical Trials Register: cohort study and web resource. BMJ (Clinical research ed). 2018;362:k3218.
2. Jones CW, Handler L, Crowell KE, Keil LG, Weaver MA, Platts-Mills TF. Non-publication of large randomized clinical trials: cross sectional analysis. BMJ (Clinical research ed). 2013;347:f6104.
3. Chapman SJ, Shelton B, Mahmood H, Fitzgerald JE, Harrison EM, Bhangu A. Discontinuation and non-publication of surgical randomised controlled trials: observational study. BMJ (Clinical research ed). 2014;349:g6870.
Competing interests: No competing interests