The Unit carries out a broad range of research including studies and trials involving the selection, recruitment and testing (measurement) of large numbers of participants. There are multiple studies running at any one time across the four clinical research facilities in Cambridge, Wisbech, Ely and Norwich, and within local communities. To give a gauge of the scale of activity, in March 2014 alone there were four studies running concurrently and 429 participants were tested with each visit taking up to three hours. The Unit’s Study Coordination and Field Epidemiology teams are managed by Dr Jennifer Furman.
Study Coordination team
The Study Coordination team’s main function is to manage the day-to-day operation of these projects. Research participant selection, recruitment and retention involves approaching participants directly using established Unit research databases and through liaison with a wide range of stakeholders (e.g. General Practitioners, NHS Trusts, NIHR Research Networks, educational establishments (including pre-school, primary and secondary) and employers) to facilitate recruitment of participants into research studies.
An important part of the work of this team is to make sure that recruitment targets are met and that trends in recruitment rates are monitored so that strategies can be adapted to maximise the number of participants recruited across all of the Unit’s research projects. The team have study coordinators and support staff who recruit participants in a consistent way, whilst also engaging with the scientific programme leaders and operational teams to implement and support the processes of data collection across the Unit’s sites. The team is responsible for monitoring each study in terms of its aims, rate of participant recruitment and completeness of outputs to ensure they remain on target. In addition, the team promotes efficiencies across all of the Unit’s research studies by standardising the approach to study co-ordination. The team support PhD students and Career Development Fellows in their individual research studies, providing training in study co-ordination ensuring that ethical, governance and research management aspects are considered.
Field Epidemiology team
The Field Epidemiology team manages the process of data collection for Unit research involving participants at each of the four clinical research sites. It is a multi-skilled team of research nurses, research assistants and clinical research assistants led by site managers. The Field team develops and adapts to meet the requirements of the Unit’s research as protocols are developed, for example, by learning new methods for data collection or testing participants in new locations. It provides a comprehensive range of clinical, anthropometric, body composition and physical activity measurements, working flexibly across six days of the week. The Field team also work in several GP surgeries, community facilities and educational establishments across East Anglia and provide home study visits, where the protocol permits, for those participants who are unable to travel to a research site.