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Waste in covid-19 research

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1847 (Published 12 May 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1847

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How can we avoid research waste during the covid-19 pandemic

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How to be researcher in a pandemic: Let me count the ways

Dear Editor

Glasziou and colleagues (1) highlight the issue of waste in COVID-19 research, including poorly designed and under-powered trials, and duplication of evidence syntheses.

Researchers can contribute to the COVID-19 research efforts in many ways other than the collection or synthesis of primary data; I provide a non-exhaustive list below.

We can:

1. Volunteer for the “red team”: playing the role of “devil’s advocate” to improve project quality (2)

2. Use our existing networks to connect others across sites and countries, with the goal of reducing waste by facilitating collaboration. In some cases, a formal structure for this already exists; for example, the Psychological Science Accelerator (https://psysciacc.org/) is a network of psychological science laboratories, coordinating multi-site data collection on selected studies.

3. Publicise research registries, where these exist (e.g., https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/ - PROSPERO – International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews) with the aim of minimising the duplication of efforts.

4. Engage in prompt peer review of preprints, registered reports, and submitted manuscripts.

5. Educate ourselves in how to effectively communicate science and to counter misinformation (3, 4).

6. Amplify the voices of relevant experts in their domain of expertise. Know when to “stay in our lane” and refer media queries to more appropriate experts.

7. Offer mentorship to early-career researchers in relation to (a) continuing their programme of research in the context of COVID-19 and (b) developing their career prospects in the context of a challenging economic climate.

8. Identify ways in which the education and training of early career researchers can continue.

9. Maintain programmes of research into non-COVID areas (e.g., cancer research), which remain important.

10. Offer methodological and statistical support to research-active healthcare professionals and to any other relevant frontline workers whose research has been disrupted.

11. Consider ways in which evidence-based planning for the long-term social and economic implications of the pandemic can take place. For example, UCD’s Geary Institute in Ireland has, to date, hosted four online crisis policy response conferences http://publicpolicy.ie/papers/irelands-covid19-crisis-response-perspecti... .

Importantly, researchers are not immune to the impact of COVID-19. Not all of us are in a position to contribute actively to research at this time. However, we can all adopt public health guidance to minimize the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

1 Glasziou PP, Sanders S, Hoffmann T. Waste in covid-19 research. BMJ 2020;369. doi:10.1136/bmj.m1847
2. Lakens, D. Pandemic researchers — recruit your own best critics. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01392-8 Published online 11 May 2020; accessed 17 May 2020.
3. Neeley, L., How to Talk About the Coronavirus. Four ways to help those around you be better informed about the pandemic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/how-talk-about-coronav... Published online 31 March 2020; accessed 17 May 2020.
4. Caulfield, T. Pseudoscience and COVID-19 — we’ve had enough already. Published online 27th April 2020; accessed 17 May 2020.

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 May 2020
Ann-Marie Creaven
Lecturer in Psychology
Department of Psychology & Health Research Institute, University of Limerick