The University of Aberdeen has pledged to conduct a review after an investigation revealed that the results of its medical research often remain inaccessible to doctors and patients. The investigation by TranspariMED, a Bristol-based initiative advocating for more transparency in medical research, shows that at least 20 clinical trials conducted at the university have not preregistered or fully reported results, in breach of national and global standards governing medical research ethics.
Clinical trials investigate whether new drugs and treatments are safe and effective. In recent years, clinical trial registries have been set up to enable doctors and patients to see what research is currently being conducted, and what different research teams have found. For example, cancer patients can use registries to search for possible treatments for their illness. Currently, the University of Aberdeen’s entries into these registries have numerous gaps. While no patients treated at the university were harmed, these gaps mean that doctors, patients and researchers outside the university cannot fully benefit from medical discoveries made in Aberdeen.
Euan Wemyss, Communications Officer at the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition at the University of Aberdeen, said:
“The University of Aberdeen is committed to ensuring transparency in research, avoiding selective publication, and making results readily available to the public. This audit report has helped highlight areas where improvements can be made. We plan to carry out an audit of the of the (known) registry entries and to review our oversight processes.”
Dr Till Bruckner, founder of TranspariMED, said:
“TranspariMED’s investigation shows that the University of Aberdeen, like many other British universities, is currently not fully meeting its ethical obligations. However, it is very encouraging that the university takes the issue seriously and has pledged to carry out an audit of known registry entries and review its oversight processes. This has the potential to strengthen Aberdeen’s global reputation as a centre of excellence in medical research. The university’s pledge should be welcomed by doctors, patients and researchers across Scotland and beyond.”
The University of Aberdeen’s audit pledge comes just days after ten major research funders and NGOs committed to ensuring that clinical trial results are reported, and to conducting and publishing audits of their performance. British signatories include the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.
For more details on TranspariMED's audit and the University of Aberdeen's full response, please see the study "Rapid external audit of institutional clinical trial registration and reporting: A pilot", published today.