I also work with my colleagues in the internationally-renowned Cochrane Collaboration to collect research findings and synthesise them into a format which is useful to clinicians, and ultimately their patients.
Our work in this area not only supports and informs the actions funders and governments could take to drive greater efficiencies in medical research, but it also helps to anchor research in the requirements of the world at large.
An example of this is how the findings of medical research are portrayed in the media. One day 'x' is deemed to be good for you; the next it is not. How can clinicians, let alone members of the general public who in most instances are the taxpayers who have paid for that research, make valid decisions in such a changeable information environment?
My argument, and it is an argument that I pose to the medical, dental and biomedical students I teach at the University of Plymouth, is that new research evidence needs to be considered in the context of evidence which has gone before in the form of a systematic review. Only by looking at the full picture in a systematic manner can we hope to glean a glimmer of understanding.
And this sits at the heart of our findings published in The Lancet. If funders, and the governments which give them license to fund, insist on a systematic review of existing research findings before new research is carried out not only will we reduce avoidable waste in medical research, we may also end up with findings that are useful to clinicians and less confusing for the public.
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