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Handling multiple outcomes in randomised trials

   School of Health & Wellbeing

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  Prof R Taylor  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Given most medical diseases/conditions have more than one consequence, many clinical trials are designed to examine the effect of an intervention on multiple outcomes. Assessment of multiple outcomes raises both practical and statistical challenges such as multiplicity,1 and the choice of appropriate outcomes has been identified as a high priority research topic both in a UK-wide and global consensus study for methodological research.2-3

The application of more sophisticated statistical analysis methods, such as multivariate modelling, rank-based analysis, and win-ratio statistic, provide the opportunity to take advantage of the linked nature of multiple outcomes widely collected and reported in trials of complex interventions. Despite the development of these methods, there appears to have been little widespread implementation in clinical trial practice. Therefore, this methodological PhD project will seek to provide some important advances, guidance, and direction in this field.

This PhD studentship will follow up an ongoing scoping review that seeks to overview current methods guidance and statistical methods for the handling multiple outcomes in randomised clinical trials. Informed by ongoing scoping review, it is anticipated that the first phase of this PhD will be a retrospective review of published RCTs of in a high impact general medical journals to assess the current practice of how multiple outcomes have been handled. Dependent on the expertise/interest of the applicant, the next PhD stage can take a ‘policy track’ that would include research activity (e.g., delphi exercise with stakeholders) that would focus on the development of guidance for multiple outcomes in RCTs. An alternative more ‘computationally intensive track’ would seek to undertake empirical simulation work comparing/contrasting the performance of different statistical methods for handling multiple outcomes in RCTs using individual participant data that are available to our research team

Professor Rod Taylor is a member TMRP PhD Advisory, Strategy and Outcome theme groups and is an experienced PhD supervisor (15 students to completion, including 5 clinical trial methodological PhDs). Dr Grace Dibben has a strong interest in clinical trial methodology and quantitative methods in clinical trials. Mr Anthony Purvis has recently joined the unit following his MSc in statistics at University of Glasgow and provide statistical expertise. This project will provide both with their first PhD supervision opportunity, mentored by Professor Taylor. The MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit has a rich cohort of PhD students and an excellent track record of supporting and training research students. The student will have the opportunity to participate a wide range of unit events, meetings and activities and have plenty of opportunities to showcase their work and engage with other students and researchers.

The MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit has a strong track record of public/stakeholder engagement in its methodological research, and training courses are offered by the university which the student will be encouraged to attend. Opportunities for engaging with non-academic audiences will be actively sought and may include a stakeholder workshop or open consultation.


You are applying for a PhD studentship from the MRC TMRP DTP. A list of potential projects and the application form is available online at:

Please complete the form fully. Incomplete forms will not be considered. CVs will not be accepted for this scheme.

Please apply giving details for your first choice project. You can provide details of up to two other TMRP DTP projects you may be interested in at section B of the application form.

Before making an application, applicants should contact the project supervisor to find out more about the project and to discuss their interests in the research before 09 January 2023.

The deadline for applications is 4pm (GMT) 16 January 2023. Late applications will not be considered.

Completed application forms must be returned to: [Email Address Removed]

Informal enquiries may be made to Prof Taylor - [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Studentships are funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for 3 years. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only, a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and stipend. We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


1. Pocock SJ. Clinical trials with multiple outcomes: a statistical perspective on their design, analysis, and interpretation. Control Clin Trials. 1997;18:530-45.
2. Tudur Smith C, Hickey H, Clarke M, et al. The trials methodological research agenda: results from a priority setting exercise. Trials 2014;15:32.
3. Rosala-Hallas A, Bhangu A, Blazeby J, et al. Global health trials methodological research agenda: results from a priority setting exercise. Trials 2018;19:48.
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