Although the phases of the research cycle are perceived as basic and untroubled in today’s competitive and complex research word, day to day research practices have shown potential for common misunderstandings, misinterpretations and data misuse. In a research Town Hall hosted by the Duke Office of Scientific Integrity, Duke faculty researchers and data experts discussed good research practices in order to minimize the risk for errors when formulating and refining research questions and testable hypotheses, designing studies, and maintaining data provenance. The topic of this town hall, attended by 408 researchers, was inspired by a new curriculum of educational modules created as part of the Duke Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design (BERD) Methods Core education efforts to train inexperienced researchers in clinical research and quantitative methods.
The first set of modules can be accessed through the Sakai course Introduction to Clinical Research.
“When we worked with researchers, we noticed that formal education in statistics has its limits. We tried to create ‘just in time’ learning materials related to data analysis, to be able to provide the education that is needed, exactly when it is needed”, said Gina-Maria Pomann, PhD, Statistical Research Scientist and the Director of the BERD Methods Core. The first four videos cover topics in the early phase of research including formulation of the research question and hypotheses and study design. (Detailed descriptions can be found on the BERD Methods Core website.) These videos were created by members of the Duke CTSA education team in partnership with Duke Learning Innovations for medical fellows and residents, as well as other trainees who, on one hand, have limited time resources to dive into the fundamentals of clinical research and quantitative methods, but on the other hand, have an interest in exploring a career in clinical research. “We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our trainees. In our next phase we will introduce regression analysis, p-values and how they are overused in research, some of their limitations as well as different analytical tools”, said Clemontina A. Davenport, PhD, Senior Biostatistician, Course Instructor, and Coordinator of the BERD education initiatives. “One of the challenges of creating training modules is to find examples which resonate with a broader audience, and to be condensed, given the time constraints of the learners: you need to offer ‘need to know’ content and not ‘nice to know content’; you need to provide optional narration and a content which can be self-paced. These videos are very well done”, said Jessica Cranfill, Instructional Designer and E-Learning Developer at Duke Office of Clinical Research. A medical fellow in Nephrology at Duke, Dr. Anika Lucas was invited to speak from the learner’s perspective about the benefits of having training resources to support good data research practices. “I decided to do clinical research but I had no knowledge related to the scientific process”, said Dr. Lucas who felt “more knowledgeable and better equipped to start” after watching the training videos.