University of South Florida

USF Health professor contributes to Lancet series on reducing research waste

A series of new papers in the journal Lancet discussing how to increase value and reduce waste in research includes a contribution by USF Distinguished Professor Benjamin Djulbegovic, MD, PhD.

Dr. Djulbegovic, professor of medicine and oncology at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, was a co-author of one of five papers published Jan. 8 in the Lancet series: How to increase value and reduce waste when research priorities are set.”

The article explains why decisions about which research to fund should be based on issues relevant to the users of research — including patients, clinicians and policy makers – and more systematically account for what researchers already know or are investigating.

“The Lancet series effectively points out that at least 50 percent of research investment is wasted, amounting to billions of dollars a year,” Dr. Djulbegovic said.


Benjamin Djulbegovic, MD, PhD

About $240 billion a year is spent globally on biomedical research.  While the enterprise has yielded substantial health improvements, only about half of the study results are made public for use by other researchers and doctors treating patients.  And, 40 to 89 percent of published trial studies could not be replicated – critical to validating study findings – because the interventions tested were poorly or incompletely described.

In their report, lead author Dr. Iain Chalmers, Dr. Djulbegovic and colleagues point out that good research ideas often produce unanticipated results and these disappointments should not be deemed wasteful as long as “the way in which these ideas are prioritized for research is transparent and warranted.”

Unexpected results are different from avoidable or unjustified waste, which encompasses inefficiencies in the way research studies are chosen, designed, conducted, analyzed, disseminated and reported. It includes the tendency not to report or publish negative study findings, which can be valuable in saving time and money by indicating when a drug or medical device does not work, or may even harm patients.

In their Lancet article Dr. Djulbegovic and co-authors make the following recommendations for reducing research waste:

–          Investigate ways to improve the yield from basic science research.

–          Be more transparent about how research funders decide which research to support, making clear how they take into account the needs of potential users of research.

–          Systematically assess existing evidence before investing in additional research.

–          Strengthen, develop and use sources of information about research already in progress, insist on publication of protocols at the beginning of studies, and encourage collaboration.


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