ANZMUSC: Asking and answering the right research questions

A multidisciplinary collaborative clinical trials network is seeking to improve musculoskeletal health in Australia and New Zealand by ensuring trials are asking the right questions.

Called ANZMUSC the network was set up after a realisation that clinical trials in Australia and New Zealand may not always be asking the most important questions from a clinician and consumer perspective.

Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, a member of the ANZMUSC working group, said researchers tended to work in silos answering their own specific questions.

“But these questions may already be answered, or may not be anything that is going to change practice or improve outcomes,” she told the limbic.

Many highly successful clinical trials networks existed in other areas of health such as intensive care, anaesthetics and oncology.

Over the last decade these groups have answered the most important questions that people want answered, Professor Buchbinder says.

“There’s no doubt they’ve changed practice, saved money and reduced costs and harms,” she says.

Until now, no clinical trials network existed within musculoskeletal research despite the high burden of disease and its low share of research funding.

The musculoskeletal research community has welcomed ANZMUSC with open arms and now momentum is building, says Professor Buchbinder.

At its inaugural summit last year the group decided on its missions and goals, function, structure and endorsement process. These were then ratified at this year’s summit held last month in Sydney.

During this meeting ANZMUSC also held an open forum where researchers could present their research ideas to their peers.

The process was constructive and helped participants determine whether their trial met ANZMUSC criteria.

“The trials that we want to endorse have to answer the most important questions that both clinicians and consumers want answered,” Professor Buchbinder says.

“They have to have high methodological quality and the potential to change practice or policy… so that they will improve health.”

In addition to helping researchers work out whether they are on the right track an endorsement by ANZMUSC may also increase the likelihood of securing an ever-elusive research grant.

Professor Buchbinder says this appears to have been the case for other networks in Australia.

“These network trials ask the most important questions, have already been peer reviewed, have received consumer input and are strong methodologically…they’re really a no-brainer to fund,” she says.

For more information on how to get involved with ANZMUSC visit the site at you can also follow them on twitter @anzmusc

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