I’ve been thinking a lot about earthworms and medical research lately. All this discussion around the research/ education/ clinical ecosystems reminds me of the importance of earthworms. Research is everywhere. Apparently, there are over 25 000 randomized controlled trials published every year. Which, in terms of research sustainability, means I should think long and hard before I design another one.
Unfortunately, we keep “designing another one”, which contributes to the growing pile of research waste. Research that is poorly conceived and produces uninterpretable results. Research that replicates studies already done, producing no new insights or evidence. And worse still, research that is never published: which I see as a betrayal of trust for our participants.
Which brings me to earthworms. I think there is a real role for the important, but undervalued task, or making the most of research waste. Finding the small trials and bringing them together in a systematic review. Uncovering the grey literature. And of course, stepping in as supervisors to ensure poor research is reformed into viable studies. Earthworm business.
If we are to continue to have a sustainable ecosystem of research, teaching and clinical practice, we need to digest research and produce digestible findings for our educators and clinicians to use in their everyday practice. There are only so many earthworms in the system to do this sort of work. And maybe some of us need to break our research down into smaller and more manageable chunks so the earthworms are less overwhelmed.