Staff and expertise

The staff include statistical, medical and computing scientists, clinical trials managers, data managers and assistants, and administrative and secretarial staff. Clinical expertise is essential and can be provided by medically qualified full-time or part-time members of the centre, by clinicians working in close collaboration with the centre, or both. Expert advice on, for example, histopathology, quality of life assessment, and health economics, may more appropriately be provided from outside the centre, depending on the size of the centre and the nature of its programme.

All staff members are fully trained in their own area of expertise and keep up-to-date on all aspects of their work, including progress in the treatment of the cancers with which they deal and developments in computing software and trials methodology. In addition to undergoing in-house training, staff can be encouraged to attend appropriate training courses, including relevant higher degrees and diplomas, and to participate in specialist conferences and clinical and scientific meetings.

The variety of expertise that a single trial requires illustrates another benefit of an established trials centre. An individual trial of modest size may well require a full-time trials manager, but only fractions of other staff: perhaps 10 per cent of a statistician, for example. We have emphasized the benefits of continuity of staff from design through to analysis, but this is hard to achieve when only fractions of staff are required. A trials centre conducting a substantial programme of trials is much more likely to be able to justify half-time or full-time members of staff working across several trials, and such posts are much easier to fill. When at least some of these staff are core-funded they are also able to work on developing new trials; a great deal of work can be required in putting together a trial grant application before any trial-specific funding can be obtained.

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