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Optimising the collection and use of health economic data within trials

   Institute of Applied Health Science

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  Dr Dwayne Boyers, Dr G Scotland, Dr Laura Ternent  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The growing importance of robust health economic evaluations has added considerably to the burden of data collection placed on participants in clinical trials. Lengthy, complex resource use and outcomes questionnaires may impact negatively on questionnaire completion rates, item response rates, and ultimately response quality. Poor quality, or incomplete data cause considerable problems for health economic analyses and may impact on the validity of health economic evaluations. Despite these issues, little is known about the determinants of the quality of self-reported health economic data or how best to optimise the health economic data collection process within trials.

What the studentship will encompass:

The student will systematically review the literature, including existing Studies Within A Trial (SWATs) to summarise what is currently known about optimising health economic data collection in trials. This will include, but is not limited to, investigation of the impact of data sources (e.g., registry data, participant completed questionnaires, medical notes), questionnaire design (e.g., frequency of data collection, length and framing of questions), mode of administration (e.g., online, paper, in-person) and participant characteristics on response quality. The review will be used to identify where knowledge gaps exist and thus shape the thesis research questions. 

The student will review existing datasets held at the University of Aberdeen and Newcastle University, and will use regression analysis methods to determine the drivers of health economics data completeness and quality. Where several data collection methods have been used in a study (e.g., patient questionnaires, medical notes, registry data), these sources will be compared to identify the relative advantages and disadvantages of each.

The student will then engage with a selection of trial participants from across our ongoing studies in surgical and dental care to co-design appropriate health economic questionnaires and other interventions that will be evaluated in at least two SWATs conducted alongside ongoing RCTs. The impact of different approaches on the results of cost-effectiveness studies will be reported. The thesis will provide a series of recommendations for optimising the collection of health economic data in trials that will reduce research waste and improve the validity of resulting policy recommendations.

The project will be supervised by Dr Dwayne Boyers, Dr Graham Scotland, and Dr Laura Ternent. Dwayne, Graham and Laura all have a wealth of experience in leading the design, delivery, analysis, and dissemination of economic evaluations conducted alongside randomised controlled trials. Dwayne and Laura are both members of the TMRP working group for Health Economics. Dwayne and Graham are based at the Health Economics Research Unit (HERU) at the University of Aberdeen and work closely in collaboration with the University’s Centre for Health and Randomised Trials (CHaRT). Laura is based at Newcastle University, is Deputy Director for the NIHR Research Design Service, and works closely with Newcastle University Clinical Trials Unit.

Students will have access to experienced multi-disciplinary trial teams, access to data from previously completed studies and will have opportunities to contribute to the development and design of health economics questionnaires for ongoing studies to refine and improve data collection processes.

Students will be expected to engage with trial specific PPI partners, study participants, and the general population to identify existing challenges and in shaping the design and development of improved processes for health economic data collection going forward.

A Master’s degree in a relevant quantitative discipline, such as economics, health economics, statistics or operational research is required.  


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 primary supervisor to find out more about the project and to discuss their interests in the research.

The deadline for applications is 4pm (GMT) 18 February 2022. Late applications will not be considered.

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

Informal enquiries may be made to [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 (stipend to include London Weighting where appropriate). 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.
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