Measurement Reactions in Trials (MERIT) Study

Summary

 

Measuring people affects their behaviour, emotions and the data they provide about themselves. This can lead to bias in trials, although the issue is not addressed within the existing risk of bias frameworks.  This project will produce the first reccomendations on preventing such bias.

 

 

Measuring reactivity

 

The act of measuring people can affect their behaviour and emotions. This can lead to bias in trials, making true change in intervention outcomes difficult to measure, especially in the context of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or in behaviour change, public health and health services research. The biasing effects of research measurements, where they exist, are likely to be variable across populations, behaviours, interventions and outcomes as well as the particular assessment methods used.

 

Developing the recommendations

 

The potential for bias as a result of measurement reactions is not adequately addressed within the existing risk of bias frameworks.  The Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research have funded the MERIT study to produce the first reccomendations on preventing or reducing such bias. 

 

The MERIT study has been designed to develop reccomendations on how to prevent or reduce bias due to measurement reactions in studies of interventions to improve health, with a particular focus on bias in RCTs. The project consists of:

  • A series of rapid and systematic reviews to identify and summarise key background literature examining reactions to measurement
  •  A Delphi survey to determine the scope of the guidance that would best meet stakeholder needs
  •           A state-of-the-art expert workshop to develop MRC/ NIHR reccomendations to the research community.

The final MRC / NIHR reccomendations will be published so that it can be used by future trial developers and other research scientists. The draft recommendations have recently been peer reviewed so we expect to be able to publish the final report in the coming months. We hope it will lead to the development of trials that are less likely to be at risk of bias.

 

The study team

 

The MERIT study is led by Prof David French at Manchester Centre for Health Psychology (MCHP), in collaboration with Prof Diana Elbourne at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Prof Andrew Farmer at the University of Oxford, Prof Martin Gulliford at King's College London, Prof Louise Locock at University of Aberdeen, Prof Jim McCambridge at University of York and Prof Stephen Sutton at University of Cambridge. Dr Lisa Miles is a research associate working on the MERIT study, she is based at MCHP.

Publications

 

Miles, L. M., Elbourne, D., Farmer, A., Guilliford, M., Locock, L., ... French, D. P. (2018), Bias due to MEasurement reactions in trials to improve health (MERIT): protocol for research to develop MRC guidance. Trials, 19, 653.

Miles, L.M., Rodrigues, A. M., Sniehotta F. F. and French, D.P. (2020), Asking questions changes health-related behavior: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 123, 59-68. 

Funding information

 

The Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research have funded the MERIT study to produce the first reccomendations on preventing or reducing such bias.   

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