Clinical trials: past, present and glorious future?

Wednesday 4th June 2014

A meeting to mark the centenary of the MRC Biostatistics Unit,

jointly organized by the Royal Statistical Society (Medical Section),

International Biometric Society (British and Irish Region) and

PSI (Statisticians in the Pharmaceutical Industry).


The meeting preceeds the 2014 Bradford Hill lecture.


Wed 4th June

John Snow Lecture Theatre, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


Please note TWO tickets are required to attend the whole afternoon; one for 13.30-16.45, and one for the Bradford Hill lecture itself (16.45-18.00). Those without the second ticket for the Bradford Hill lecture cannot be guaranteed a place in the lecture theatre for the Bradford Hill lecture.


Cost: £25 for members (no discount for students on this occasion); £40 non members.


Students can join the BIR for free at


Registration (via the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Website) is open at




 Document downloads for IBS members.
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13.30 - 13.45Welcome
13.45 - 14.20Linda Sharples Clinical trials are not enough

Clinical trials are undoubtedly useful but when we want to make decisions about treatment policies they provide only partial information about the question of interest. Combining clinical trials with other sources of observed or elicited information is necessary for a complete decision analysis but this involves further model assumptions. Some modelling approaches in this context are reviewed.

14.20 - 14.55Stephen Senn Some are wise and some are otherwise: a defence of randomisation

 The only guarantees that randomisation brings are guarantees in probability but to assume that that makes it valueless is to make the same error as supposing it is not in a casino's interest to have a fair roulette wheel. Confusion regarding this has led many to overlook what should be obvious.

14.55 - 15.30David Spiegelhalter Why aren't all clinical trials Bayesian?

I shall attempt to answer this question, taking account of the limited impact of Bayesian methods over the last 30 years. I am inexorably led to another question: why should they be?"

15.30 - 16.00Tea
16.00 - 16.20Iain Chalmers UK Medical Research Council and Clinical Trials, 1934-1960
Chalmers Screencast (login to view)
16.20 - 16.45Iain Chalmers and Peter Armitage in conversation with Vern Farewell.
Conversation Video (login to view)
16.45 - 17.00Break
17.00 - 18.00Bradford Hill Lecture: Stuart Pocock

Controversies, calamities and celebrations in clinical trials research

Do current clinical trials meet Society's needs? This critical review of recent practice, focussing on examples in cardiology, covers several controversies. While there's much to celebrate in clinical trials research there is also definite room for improvement.

Pocock Screencast (login to view)
18.00Wine reception


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