In this session, Dr Gillian Currie who is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the CAMARADES group, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at The University of Edinburgh talked about EUROC (Edinburgh University Research Optimisation Course) which encourages open research practices in animal research. Dr Gillian Currie is a meta-researcher and her research interests include improvement in research methodology.
Dr Currie began talking about EUROC (Edinburgh University Research Optimization Course), a course with a focus on rigorous design, conduct, analysis and reporting of research using animals. She further mentioned some key points on research using animals:
- In the year 2020, 2.8 million animals were used in research across the UK
- The studies helped understand basic biology, complex diseases and potential treatments development
- However, there were certain concerns regarding difficulties in replication, reproducibility and translation
Dr Currie talked briefly about the translational pipeline which aims to translate pre-clinical research into clinical research which further results in improved health. A survey conducted by Nature involving 1,576 researchers found that 52% of the researchers agreed there is a ‘reproducibility crisis’. The problem of ‘replication crisis’ can be attributed to the following reasons:
- Smaller sample size in studies
- Publication bias
- Limited randomization and blinding
Dr Currie carried on with a discussion by talking about new opportunities in open research practices including:
- An increased focus on methodological rigour which involves ensuring appropriate power, appropriate statistics and p values
- An increased transparency through pre-registration of studies, reporting of methods as well as sharing of data
- Measures to reduce risks of biases
It is important to realise that a small improvement manifested across large number of researchers can help make sure to have a substantial effect overall.
Course structure of EUROC:
EUROC comprises of 3 modules which can be completed across multiple sessions. Every module consists of 1 core and 1 extended lecture.
MODULE 1: Study Design and Data Analysis
In module 1, ‘Study Design’ section will comprise of internal validity, Risks of bias, Construct and external validity and Exploratory vs confirmatory research. ‘Data Analysis’ section consists of Statistical analysis, Significance testing, Sample size and statistical power, Outliers, Unit of analysis and Multiple outcome testing.
MODULE 2: Experimental Procedure
Module 2 is divided into two sections: Maximizing Study Validity and Study Design. The former section includes topics like Risks of bias, Pilot studies, Confounding characteristics and variables, Validity of outcome and Optimization of complex treatment parameters. The latter section will have Use of reference compounds, Statistical Analysis Tips, Replication and Standardisation.
MODULE 3: Pre-registration and Reporting
The final module will deal with Pre-registration (including Study protocols) and Reporting (Data sharing, Statement of conflict of interest, Reporting standards).
The course is a contribution by The University of Edinburgh towards an improvement in research. Therefore, the course is also available to researchers outside the university through this link edin.ac/2SZvY4U.
How to access EUROC on Learn (for people within the University of Edinburgh):
- Log in to Learn
- Click on ‘self-enrol’ (available on top right of the screen)
- Scroll down to Research Improvement
- Click on EUROC (Edinburgh University Research Optimisation Course)
The session was concluded with Dr Currie talking about a research improvement project that is coming up soon. Delays in dissemination of research findings act as impediments in scientific progress, therefore one of the most important aims of research improvement project is to increase the speed at which findings are shared with the use of pre-prints. A Pre-print is an early version of a scholarly article that has not gone under peer-review. It is open to comments and is a good means to prioritise new ideas.
This blog is written by Sumbul Syed
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