Solutions focused research

Better methods for better health

Our research aims to promote the better conduct and reporting of health research ultimately leading to enhanced population health and wellbeing. 

Photo of stethoscope and keyboard

Main contact

Prof Rod Taylor (MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit)

School of Health and Wellbeing research theme 

Solutions Focused Research

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Addressing Inequalities

The challenge 

Research into the methods used in the design, conduct, analysis, reporting and synthesis of health research is essential to ensure that effective methods are available and that decisions made using results from studies are based on the best available evidence, which is reliable and robust. Inefficiencies in the conduct of health research may lead to wasted resources, to a delay in the research, or to the research failing to complete or to answer policy questions that address health.  

The research 

Research in our institute has driven the prominence and importance of methodological research. This is exemplified by the framework for complex interventions which has been fundamental in shaping the development and evaluation of complex interventions internationally and has been formally adopted by number of research funding and policy agencies including National Institute of Health & Care Research (NIHR). Other ongoing areas of methodological research led by Glasgow include CONSORT-SURROGATE & SPIRIT-SURROGATE, ADAPT, SWiM, and public health trials methods. 

The results 

Glasgow led the development of the new UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and NIHR framework for developing and evaluating complex interventions first published in 2000 and revised in 2006. The new framework published in 2021 takes account of recent developments in theory and methods and the need to maximise the efficiency, use, and impact of research. Glasgow is now also leading the update of the MRC natural experiments guidance with funding from both MRC and NIHR. Glasgow is also leading the MRC Better Methods, Better Research funded project CONSORT/SPIRIT-SURROGATE to publish extensions to CONSORT/SPIRIT guidance for RCTs using surrogate endpoints in Q4 2023. 

The impact 

The press release of the 2021 complex intervention framework update included the following comments:

Prof Nick Wareham, Chair of MRC’s Population Health Sciences Group said:

"Previous versions of the guidance on the development and evaluation of complex interventions have been extremely influential and are widely used in the field. We are delighted that the successful partnership between MRC and NIHR has enabled the guidance to be updated and extended. It is particularly important to see how the new framework brings in thinking about the interplay between an intervention and the context in which it is applied."

Prof Hywel Williams, NIHR Scientific and Coordinating Centre Programmes Contracts Advisor said:

"This updated framework is a landmark piece of guidance for researchers working on such interventions. The updated guidance will help researchers to develop testable and reproducible interventions that will ultimately benefit NHS patients. The guidance also represents a terrific collaborative effort between the NIHR and MRC that I would like to see more of."

The guidance has already received 71 citations and it was only published at end of last year and it’s in the top 5% in altimetric of all research outputs, scoring higher than 98% of its peers in BMJ.

A series of short courses on the new framework is being rolled out for UK and international researchers.

The team

Related publications and other URLs

MRC/NIHR development and evaluation of complex interventions



Public health trial methods

Synthesis without meta-analysis (SWiM)