Major boost to train the next generation of trials methodologists

A partnership to train the next generation of trials methodologists has been awarded funding by the Medical Research Council through their Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) competition.

The Trials Methodology Research Partnership DTP brings together 12 partners, including the University of Aberdeen. Also included are the University of Liverpool, the Institute of Cancer Research, Newcastle University, Queen Mary University London, University College London, the universities of Bangor, Birmingham, Cambridge, Glasgow, Leeds and Plymouth to provide doctoral training to 30 students for the next 3 years.

The Partnership DTP is one of 17 projects funded by the MRC as part of a £79 million investment to support high-quality doctoral training programmes that take a student-centred approach, focusing on scientific excellence, positive research culture and wider training opportunities.

Led by the University of Liverpool, the Trials Methodology Research Partnership DTP will develop and train a cohort of researchers with methodological skills and insight beyond clinical trials, filling a strategic skills priority gap.

It will provide a new generation of trials methodologists with the skills and experience to address the new challenges brought by high-dimensional data, such as genomic information, and harness opportunities offered through digital technologies and informatics to improve trial design, conduct and analysis for the benefit of patients.

Professor Paula Williamson, from the University of Liverpool’s Department of Health Data Science who will lead the Trials Methodology Research Partnership DTP, said: “Trials are widely recognised as the basis of evidence-based medicine and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need for, and benefits of well-designed trials.”

“The aim of this DTP is to improve the opportunities for students in relation to multidisciplinary skills expertise. The DTP has been carefully designed and the structured ‘core’ training programme will be complemented by a range of more specialised optional training courses.  It will provide them with the opportunity to gain experience and training from researchers from a wider range of disciplinary backgrounds and from different types of research organisations, which will give them a better understanding of the trials environment and improve their career opportunities.”

The Trials Methodology Research Partnership builds on the success of the MRC Network of Hubs for Trials Methodology Research which was created to improve health by improving trials.

Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair, MRC, said: “We are thrilled to announce our funding for the next generation of MRC PhD researchers through 17 new UK-wide Doctoral Training Partnership awards. Outstanding research is only possible when we invest in people to conduct that research. Our new awards are student-centred, setting out to increase the diversity of individuals pursing research careers and providing opportunities for students to widen their horizons during and post-PhD.”

Investments in doctoral training are a key component of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the MRC’s overarching vision to develop research talent and skills.