Health Services Research Unit
University of Aberdeen
3rd Floor, Health Sciences Building
On completion of my PhD (Biochemistry) I moved to applied research and joined HSRU in 2007 taking up the post of Trial Manager for the CATHETER Trial. Whilst working as a Trial Manager I gained an MSc in Health Services and Public Health Research from the University of Aberdeen, which supported my transition to Research Fellow supported by independent fellowships (CSO then MRC).
My research interests focus on the design and delivery of participant centred trials: from point of initial contact through to feeding back results to individuals. I lead research in the application of behavioural science to trials methodology. For example, framing problems of recruitment and retention as behaviours and exploring the opportunities to improve these aspects through the design of participant centred, theoretically informed, interventions. This work is multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder and involves using mixed methods approaches to develop, evaluate and implement interventions to support decision making in this context. To find out more about specific project please click on the 'Research' tab at the top of the page. My research has been supported by various funders.
I also lead the mixed-methods process evaluations in many of our trials to improve both the experience for potential participants and the overall efficiency of the trial. Work in this area is ongoing across the portfolio of CHaRT trials.
- MSc Public Health and Health Services Research2009 - University of Aberdeen
- PhD Biochemistry2007 - University of Dundee
- BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science2001 - Glasgow Caledonian University
Developing principles for sharing information about potential trial intervention benefits and harms with patients: report of a modified Delphi survey Martina SvobodovaTrialsContributions to Journals: Articles
The PROMoting THE USE of SWATs (PROMETHEUS) Programme: Lessons learnt and future developments for SWATsResearch Methods in Medicine & Health Sciences, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 100-106Contributions to Journals: Articles
Recruitment interventions for trials involving adults lacking capacity to consent: methodological and ethical considerations for designing Studies Within a Trial (SWATs)TrialsContributions to Journals: Articles
Barriers and enablers to the effective implementation of robotic assisted surgeryPloS ONE, vol. 17, no. 8, e0273696Contributions to Journals: Articles
What influences communication about retention in randomised trials: a multi-trial, theory-based analysis exploring trial staff perspectivesBMC Medical Research Methodology, vol. 22, 231Contributions to Journals: Articles
Prizes and Awards
MRC Strategic Skills Methodology Research Fellowship 2014-2019. Medical Research Council.
CSO Postdoctoral Research Training Fellowship 2009-2012. Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government.
Trials methodology; behavioural science; behaviour change; participant experience; process evaluations; mixed-methods.
I am currently accepting PhDs in Applied Health Sciences.
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.
Applied Health SciencesSupervising
Methodological research related to RCTs
Behavioural approaches to trials methods
I lead several projects (or work packages within projects) that have applied behavioural science to understand key trial problems such as recruitment and retention. These include:
- What are the key challenges and opportunities for mounting a trial of prehospital REBOA? A behavioural diagnosis to inform a definitive evaluation (PPRO_Behave)
- Systematic Techniques to Enhance Retention in RCTs: The STEER Project
- Behavioural approaches to explore factors that affect questionnaire return in the CGALL trial. The figure below illustrates the overarching themes related to questionnaire return with the relevant TDF domains mapped against each theme.
I also supervise PhD candidates in this area as lead academic supervisor or lead methods expert:
- Behavioural interventions to improve clinical trial recruitment and retention
- Recruiter experience of recruiting pregnant women to clinical trials (The ENCOUNTER Study)
Other recently completed or ongoing trials methods projects that I lead
- Development of a core outcome set for the EvaLuation of Interventions for informed Consent for randomIsed controlled Trials: The ELICIT Study. ELICIT, the first methodological core outcome set, was developed to identify what outcomes should be considered in evaluations of interventions that aim to improve decisions about participation in a clinical trial. The photo above was taken at the final consensus meeting which was held in Aberdeen in February 2020and brought together a range of stakeholders to help build agreement on the most important outcomes. Full paper here
- PRioRITY II: Prioritising Retention in Randomised Trials – I led a multi-stakeholder James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership to identify the Top 10 unanswered questions for methods research on trial retention. Full paper here.
- Strategies to improve retention in randomised trials. I led the recent collaborative update of this Cochrane review.
- RECAP: Feedback matters: How should trial results be reported back to participants? The RECAP project has generated participant-centred, evidence-based recommendations for trialists to implement the dissemination of results to trial participants. The findings from RECAP are informing the Health Research Authority’s update to dissemination of trial results guidance.
Process evaluations within ongoing RCTs
- C-GALL - A randomised controlled trial comparing the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of laparoscopic cholecystectomy compared with observation/conservative management for preventing recurrent symptoms and complications in adults with uncomplicated symptomatic gallstones. Methodological research projects that I lead linked to this trial include:
- UK REBOA: A randomised controlled trial of the effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness, of Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta (REBOA) for trauma. Process evaluation applying a behavioural approach to improve recruitment to the trial through identification of barriers and implementation of behavioural solutions.
- REGAL: Recurrence of Endometriosis: A randomised controlled trial of clinical and cost-effectiveness of Gonadotrophin Releasing Hormone Analogues with add-back hormone replacement therapy. Starts recruitment in 2021.
- DIAMOND: Deep infiltrating endometriosis: management by medical treatment versus early surgery. Starts recruitment in 2021.
Other applied Health Services Research Projects
I-TRAC - In-home Tracking of glaucoma: Reliability, Acceptability, and Cost: the I-TRAC Study (Chief Investigator)
REINFORCE - Real-World Evaluation of Robot-Assisted Surgical Services (REINFORCE): Work Package 1 - Optimisation of RAS implementation and scale up (Methodological lead)
RoboCOS: What outcomes are important for evaluating robotic assisted surgery as a service-level change? An outcome mapping exercise to inform core outcome set development (Methodological lead)
TestES Consortium: Testosterone Effects and Safety in Men with Low Testosterone levels (Methodological lead)
I actively collaborate with other methodologists and trial teams both nationally and internationally on a range of trials methodology projects, highlights include:
- ORINOCO: Optimising Resource-use IN Outcome Collection
- PoINT: Public involvement in Numerical aspects of Trials
- PACT: Patient-centred trials (PACT): developing measures to improve the experience of people taking part in clinical trials
- Developing and Testing Participant Information Leaflets (PILs) that Inform and do not Cause Harm (PrinciPILs)
- BadRaP: Using behavioural science to understand and improve participation in clinical trials
I supervise a range of clinical and non-clinical PhD candidates, recent examples include:
- Behavioural interventions to improve clinical trial recruitment and retention - Taylor Coffey
- Towards improvement in care delivery in Huntington's disease (HD) - Daniela Rae
- Recruiting women during pregnancy and childbirth to clinical trials - Vivienne Hanrahan (National University of Ireland, Galway)
- How do trial teams plan for trial retention? - Ellen Murphy (University College Cork)
Funding and Grants
I have been involved as a co-applicant and work package lead on a portfolio of national and international grants generating in excess of £17.4 million, with almost £1.5 million as Chief Investigator, predominantly over the past 5 years. These awards include a range of funders, methodological and applied research, but all are relevant for national or international healthcare. Select awards over past 5 years include:
- Goulao B, Morris T, Gamble C, Blazeby J, Ramsay C, Totton N, Laidlaw L, Soulsby I, Stewart D, Gillies K. INITIAL: Involving patients and the public In sTatistIcal Analysis pLans. MRC-NIHR Trials Methodology Research Partnership. 2021-22. £9,492.
- Soomro N, Gillies K, Breckons M, Challacombe B, MacLennan G, Vale L, Narahari K, Sheerin N, Stewart G, Nicol D, di Mambro D, Heer R. The PARTIAL study – a randomised trial of the clinical and cost effectiveness of PARTIAL vs radical nephrectomy for clinically localised renal cell carcinoma. NIHR HTA. 02/22-01/27. £1876106
- Gillies K (CI), Duncan E, MacLennan G, LeBrec V, Lendrum R. What are the key challenges and opportunities for mounting a trial of prehospital REBOA? A behavioural diagnosis to inform a definitive evaluation. 10/21-03/22
- Treweek S, Gardner H, Gillies K, Witham M, Devane D, Khunti, Bower P, Parker A, Oshisanya A, Soulsby I. . Improving ethnic diversity in trials: helping trial teams recruit and retain the ethnic groups essential for results with community-wide relevance and applicability. Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government’s Health & Social Care Directorate. 11/21-03/23 £188146.
- Williamson P, Yap C, Eldridge S, Gillies K, Hughes D, Gates S, Jaki T, Taylor R, Walwyn R, Tudur-Smith C, Vale C, Wason J, Hosking J. Doctoral Training Programme 2021 – Trials Methods Research . Medical Research Council. 09/22-09/26. £2,518,806
- Beard D, Matthew C, Harji D, McGaughey F, Torkington J, McGrath J, Gillies K, Davies L, Vale L, MacLennan G, Soomro N, Bhattarai N, Bach S, Shaikh S, Campbell MK. A Real-World, In-Situ, Evaluation Of The Introduction And Scale-Up Of Robot-Assisted Surgical Services In The NHS: Evaluating Its Impact On Clinical And Service Delivery, Effectiveness And Cost. NIHR HSDR 01/22-03/25. £1359238
- Howick J, Gillies K, Treweek S, Bower S, Edwards A, Bostock J, Hood K. PrinciPIL: Developing and Testing PILs that do not Cause Harm. MRC Better methods, better research Programme. MRC Better Research, Better Methods Programme. £312,832 01/21 - 08/22
- Shiely F, Issacs T, Finucane E, Treweek S, Gillies K, O’Sullivan L. Understanding the language and complexity of informed consent in clinical trials and identifying participant preferences and understanding of key trial processes - randomisation. Health Research Board Trials Methodology Research Network. 01/21- 10/21. £9997.
- Houghton C, Biesty L, Gillies K, Rousseau N, Wade J, Gamble C. Qualitative data sharing practices in clinical trials in the UK and Ireland: Towards the production of good practice guidance. Health Research Board Trials Methodology Research Network. 01/21- 10/21. £9514.
- Cooper K, Clark J, Gillies K, Maclennan G, Scotland G, Bhattacharya S, Cox E, Horne A, Byrne D, Smith P, Amer S, Gamaleldin I, Vashisht A, Murchie P. Deep Infiltrating Endometriosis: Management by Medical Treatment or Early Surgery (DIAMOND). NIHR HTA Programme. 02/21. £1,528,925
- Brehaut J, Presseau J, Gillies K, Grimshaw J, Ramsay C, Duncan E, Fergusson D, Marlin S, Graham I, Spencer H, Weijer C, Taljard M, Gordon J, Richards D, Rodger M. Using behavioural science to understand and improve participation in clinical trials. CIHR. 02/21-02/26
- Gillies K (CI), Azuara-Blanco A, Hernandex R, Forrest M, Maclennan G. Digital technologies for home monitoring glaucoma: a feasibility study. NIHR HTA Programme. January 2020. £289,313
- Gillies K (CI) & Clarke M. Strategies to improve retention to randomised trials. NIHR Incentive Scheme. £8833. January 2020.
- Williamson PR, Emsley R, Sydes M, Land T, Brown J, Lalloo D, Mabey D, Hood K, Devane D, Farrell B, Allen E, Kirkham J, Gillies K, Yap C, Blazeby J, Avery K, Weir C, Jaki T, Wason J, Hughes D, Farron A, Morris T, Landray M, Wordsworth S, Villar Moreschi S. Trials Methodology Research Partnership, Medical Research Council. 06/19. £458,665
- Gillies K (CI), Knapp P. Hunn A, Humphreys R, Entwistle V, Campbell M. Feed back matters: how should trial results be fed back to trial participants? Academy of Medical Sciences. 11/17-10/19. £99,964. 23.
- Gillies K (CI), Treweek S, Bower P, Young B, Witham M, Wells M, Francis J. Developing theory based interventions to minimise drop-out in randomised trials. Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government’s Health & Social Care Directorate. 08/17 – 09/19. £249,649
I teach on the Qualitative Methods module for the Masters in Public Health. I supervise Masters students across the MPH and other in-person adn online Masters courses. I contribute to the Real World RCTs and PPI in trials modules that HSRU has developed.
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The relative importance of information items and preferred mode of delivery when disseminating results from trials to participants: a mixed methods studyHealth Expectations, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 419-429Contributions to Journals: Articles
Identifying the outcomes important to men with hypogonadism: a qualitative evidence synthesisJournal of AndrologyContributions to Journals: Articles
Developing an online, searchable database to systematically map and organise current literature on retention research (ORRCA2)Clinical Trials, vol. 19, no. 1Contributions to Journals: Articles
Developing theory-based SMS messages to support retention in clinical trials: a mixed methods approachResearch Methods in Medicine & Health Sciences, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 22-31Contributions to Journals: Articles
Bah humbug! Association between sending Christmas cards to trial participants and trial retention: randomised study within a trial conducted simultaneously across eight host trialsBMJ, vol. 375, e067742Contributions to Journals: Articles
How can behavioural science help us design better trials?Trials, vol. 22, no. 1, 882Contributions to Journals: Comments and Debates
Testing approaches to sharing trial results with participants: The Show RESPECT cluster randomised, factorial, mixed methods trialPLoS Medicine, vol. 18, no. 10, e1003798Contributions to Journals: Articles
Why trials lose participants: a multi-trial investigation of participants’ perspectives using the theoretical domains frameworkJournal of Clinical Epidemiology, vol. 137, pp. P1-13Contributions to Journals: Articles
An international core outcome set for evaluating interventions to improve informed consent to clinical trials: the ELICIT StudyJournal of Clinical Epidemiology, vol. 137, pp. 14-22Contributions to Journals: Articles
Placebo comparator group selection and use in surgical trials: the ASPIRE project including expert workshopHealth Technology Assessment, vol. 25, no. 53Contributions to Journals: Articles