A word from the DirectorStephen Walters

A happy new year to everyone and welcome to the third newsletter from the Design, Trials and Statistics (DTS) section in ScHARR at the University of Sheffield.

The group aims to design, conduct, analyse and report high quality randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and other studies to evaluate the effectiveness of new services, therapies and health technologies; with the aim of improving the health of the public at local, regional, national and international levels.

This edition of the newsletter highlights three recently commissioned studies being set up and carried out by staff in DTS: DiPEP; PRACTICE and BEADS.  It is always nice to have an easily remembered acronym for a trial or study – to see what these stand for please read the articles about the studies!

Two of these studies (PRACTICE and BEADS) are for pilot or feasibility studies.  Funding bodies are increasingly becoming more cautious in commissioning large multicentre RCTs before investigators have demonstrated that the studies are feasible in terms of recruitment and retention of participants; acceptability and compliance of participants and clinicians with the protocol.  One of the strategic aims of DTS is to develop and maintain a strong portfolio of high quality methodological research in areas relevant to the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of studies to evaluate the effectiveness of new health technologies, which is recognised both nationally and internationally.  This edition highlights the success of DTS staff who have been working collaboratively and productively in teams to produce three methodological papers on the topic of pilot studies; which have been highly accessed.

The statisticians’ in DTS also had a strong presence, with oral and poster presentations, at the annual Royal Statistical Society (RSS 2014) Conference which took place in Sheffield in September 2014; showcasing the wide variety of statistical work that DTS undertakes.  Two of the posters won prizes.

As part of our commitment/strategy to train the next generation of medical statisticians we also had three NIHR interns (Isabella Hatfield, Edward Pottrill and Joshua Allen) working with us over the summer.  This gave undergraduate students the opportunity to gain experience about what it is like to work as a statistician in an academic research environment.

The CTRU within DTS has also been hosting two NIHR Clinical Trials Fellows (Dr Katherine Berry and Dr Gordon Fuller).  These prestigious fellowships provide 6-month placements (or 8 or 9 months part-time placements) for former NIHR fellowship holders to develop their skills in clinical trials.  During their placements Katherine and Gordon will gain a detailed understanding of the lifespan of clinical trials from the earliest pre-award stages to the dissemination of results.  Their fellowships involve ‘hands on’ placements covering all aspects of trial conduct including the design, costing, conduct, management, analysis and communication of results.  The overall aim is for the Fellows to gain the necessary skills to allow development into a clinical trial chief investigator.

This edition of the newsletter also celebrates the PhD graduations of two DTS post-graduate research students (Dr Jennifer Lai and Dr Lynn Taylor) and Chris Littlewood.  Well done Jennifer, Lyn and Chris.  It is always great to see PGR students graduate in their red University of Sheffield gowns.  The process of post-graduate research supervision is continuous and always ongoing and in October 2014, we welcomed two new PGR students, Jo Rothwell and Beckie Simpson, to DTS.

We can assist your research from the earliest stages from identifying funding sources and protocol development through to implementation and publication.  If you have a study in mind, please contact us to discuss your requirements.  We are aiming to communicate with many people - colleagues and collaborators, clients and research funding bodies, potential and previous students.  Everyone we know will be added to our mailing list, and if you’ve received the newsletter second-hand you can contact us to join the list by sending your details to:


I hope you enjoy the newsletter.

Professor Stephen Walters