Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of jrsocmedLink to Publisher's site
J R Soc Med. 1992 February; 85(2): 71–76.
PMCID: PMC1294885

Fate of research studies.


A retrospective survey was conducted of 720 research protocols, approved by the Central Oxford Research Ethics Committee between 1984 and 1987, to determine the fate of research studies from inception. Forty-five per cent were clinical trials, 23% were observational studies and 32% were laboratory-based experimental studies. Further information was obtained on 487 studies, of which 287 (59%) had been completed, 100 (21%) had never started, 58 (12%) had been abandoned or were in abeyance and 42 (9%) were still ongoing, as of May 1990. Forty-three per cent of the original 487 studies were subsequently published or presented. The most frequent reason for not starting a study was failure to obtain funding (40%). The main reason for abandoning a study was difficulty in recruiting study participants (28%). Departure of one of the investigators from the institution and a variety of logistical problems were also common reasons for either not starting or abandoning a study. A thorough review of the pragmatic as well as the scientific aspects of a planned research project is important to minimize the initiation of studies that are unlikely to succeed.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.2M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Denham MJ, Foster A, Tyrrell DA. Work of a district ethical committee. Br Med J. 1979 Oct 27;2(6197):1042–1045. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Arcand M, Williamson J. An evaluation of home visiting of patients by physicians in geriatric medicine. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981 Sep 12;283(6293):718–720. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Allen PA, Waters WE. Development of an ethical committee and its effect on research design. Lancet. 1982 May 29;1(8283):1233–1236. [PubMed]
  • Anderson J, Evered DC. Why do research on research? Lancet. 1986 Oct 4;2(8510):799–802. [PubMed]
  • Smith R. The funding of medical research: going up or coming down? Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988 Jan 23;296(6617):267–270. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Easterbrook PJ, Berlin JA, Gopalan R, Matthews DR. Publication bias in clinical research. Lancet. 1991 Apr 13;337(8746):867–872. [PubMed]
  • Blackwell B, Shepherd M. Early evaluation of psychotropic drugs in man. A trial that failed. Lancet. 1967 Oct 14;2(7520):819–822. [PubMed]
  • Cook CC, Scannell TD, Lipsedge MS. Another trial that failed. Lancet. 1988 Mar 5;1(8584):524–525. [PubMed]
  • Fletcher RH, Fletcher SW. Clinical research in general medical journals: a 30-year perspective. N Engl J Med. 1979 Jul 26;301(4):180–183. [PubMed]
  • Juhl E, Christensen E, Tygstrup N. The epidemiology of the gastrointestinal randomized clinical trial. N Engl J Med. 1977 Jan 6;296(1):20–22. [PubMed]
  • Cooper LS, Chalmers TC, McCally M, Berrier J, Sacks HS. The poor quality of early evaluations of magnetic resonance imaging. JAMA. 1988 Jun 10;259(22):3277–3280. [PubMed]
  • Altman DG. Statistics and ethics in medical research: III How large a sample? Br Med J. 1980 Nov 15;281(6251):1336–1338. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press