Given that hundreds of thousands of randomised trials have been done and tens of thousands are ongoing right now, you might think that there’d be plenty of research to support choices such as how best to recruit and retain participants, how best to collect data, or how to effectively disseminate the trial results. Sadly, you’d be wrong. There is remarkably little evidence available to support the doing of trials, and trials are much less efficient than they could be as a result.
This is what makes the UK National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) new funding stream for ‘Studies Within A Trial (SWATs)’ in the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) program such great news. This new scheme makes it possible to build a SWAT costing up to £10,000 into every HTA trial, with the approval process for this being light-touch.
A good starting point for selecting a SWAT is the SWAT repository, which provides outlines for more than 50 existing SWATs. What would help even more is if SWATs are coordinated, so that we get evidence from several evaluations quickly. This body of evidence can then be used to inform trial process decisions and researchers can move on to other SWATs, rather than have single SWAT evaluations floating around for years but unable to really help decision making. Trial Forge can help with this (contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org) as can York Trials Unit, which has built up a lot of SWAT expertise over the years (contact Adwoa Parker at email@example.com). York also has a useful page on SWATs.