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Assessing the Value of Outcome Assessment Blinding in Randomised Trials of Complex Interventions, Medical Studies – PhD (Funded)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S Dean
    Dr F Warren
    Prof R Taylor
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The University of Exeter’s College of Medicine and Health, in partnership with the MRC-NIHR Trials Methodology Research Partnership is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in September 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter. For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,009 for 3 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. The student would be based in Clinical Trials Unit in the Medical School at the St Luke’s Campus in Exeter.

To avoid bias in intervention delivery and collection of outcome data in randomised controlled trials (RCTs), it is considered ideal that the participant, the provider of the participant’s allocated intervention, and the outcome assessor, should be `blinded’ i.e. unaware of the intervention received by the participant. In trials where any of these individuals are aware of the participant’s intervention, lack of blinding is a recognised key source of potential bias. An overview of seven meta-epidemiological studies reported an average of 13% exaggeration of odds ratios of the intervention effect in trials that were not ‘double-blind’ and 22% exaggeration when the outcomes were subjective (e.g. patient-reported outcomes (PROs). However, much of this empirical evidence comes from RCTs of pharmacological/drug treatments where masking of the intervention is possible (whether comparing two active treatments or an active treatment versus a placebo) and therefore participants, intervention providers, and researchers can all be blinded. Little is known about the specific benefit of outcome assessor blinding in such trials, i.e. what is the average degree of bias attributable to assessor blinding in complex intervention trials and how much does such bias depend on the type of outcome?
The overarching aim of this PhD project is to assess the value of outcome assessment blinding in RCTs of complex interventions. For the purposes of this project, the focus will be exercise-based rehabilitation interventions (a subgroup of complex interventions). The specific research activities envisaged with this PhD include:

• Undertaking an overview of the current methodological literature on the advantages and disadvantages of outcome assessment blinding in RCTs of rehabilitation interventions.
• Using RCT data to assess the level of bias associated with not undertaking blinded outcome assessment in RCTs of rehabilitation interventions.
• Developing a methodological consensus statement on the value of outcome blinding in RCTs of rehabilitation interventions.

The successful candidate will work in a highly interdisciplinary environment and should be able to work independently and in collaboration with members of the MRC-NIHR Trials Methodology Research Partnership. The student will be part of the wider cohort of TMRP PhD students and to attend meetings organized for cohort. See

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £15,009 per year tax-free stipend. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend.

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3 years of full-time study to commence in September 2019.

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