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PhD in Biostatistics – Methods for Quantifying the Utility of Adaptive Designs

Project Description

Number of awards


Start date and duration

September 2020, three years.


Clinical trials provide the highest form of evidence about effectiveness of new treatments but are very expensive to conduct. Adaptive designs(1) are a broad class of approaches for improving the efficiency of clinical trials. They can potentially provide large increases in efficiency and are becoming more widespread in their use. Our group oversees the statistics for several ongoing trials using adaptive designs.

Adaptive designs are not always beneficial(2), especially when it takes a long time to observe the effect of a treatment (quantified by an endpoint). Being able to better quantify when an adaptive design is beneficial would be of great interest. This project will involve:

1) Investigating and quantifying the loss of efficiency experienced in real trials identified in a recent systematic review.
2) Developing a metric that can quantify how efficient a clinical trial is with and without an adaptive design.
3) Developing methods for how informative short-term endpoints must be for adaptive designs to be worthwhile.

As part of a supportive and dynamic environment, the student would have the opportunity to be involved in designing real clinical trials using their methods.

Training on relevant statistical methods, statistical programming and clinical trials will be provided.


Newcastle University, Faculty of Medical Sciences

Name of supervisor(s)

Professor James Wason and Dr Michael Grayling, Population Health Sciences Institute https://bit.ly/2rh8zO4

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants must have at least a 2:1 degree in a discipline relevant to the study and (by the time of starting the PhD) a master’s degree in statistics or a subject with a substantial statistics component, at Merit level or equivalent, or equivalent research training and experience.

If English is not your first language, you must have an overall IELTS of more than 6.5 with no component less than 5.5, or equivalent.

The award provides full funding of fees and stipend to UK/EU applicants. Non-EU international applicants would have to cover additional international student fees. See our Newcastle University Overseas Research Scholarship (NUORS) for more information https://bit.ly/2OvqTv3

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system https://bit.ly/2D0eie3

Only mandatory fields need to be completed. However, you will need to include the following information:
•click on programme of study
•insert the programme code 8300F in the programme of study section and click search
•select programme name ’PhD in the Faculty of Medical Sciences(full time) - Health Sciences’
•insert the studentship code ph002 in the studentship/partnership reference field
•attach a covering letter and CV no more than two pages for each. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote the studentship reference code ph002 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
•attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.


For further details, please contact: Professor James Wason,

Funding Notes

100% of UK/EU tuition fees paid and annual living expenses of £15,009 (subject to review, in line with UKRI rates).


1. Pallmann P et al. Adaptive designs in clinical trials: why use them, and how to run and report them. BMC Med. 2018 Dec 28;16(1):29.
2. Wason JMS, Brocklehurst P, Yap C. When to keep it simple – adaptive designs are not always useful. BMC Med. 2019 Dec;17(1).

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