Synthesizing existing evidence to design future trials: survey of methodologists from European institutions.

Nikolakopoulou, Adriani; Trelle, Sven; Sutton, Alex J; Egger, Matthias; Salanti, Georgia (2019). Synthesizing existing evidence to design future trials: survey of methodologists from European institutions. Trials, 20(1), p. 334. BioMed Central 10.1186/s13063-019-3449-6

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'Conditional trial design' is a framework for efficiently planning new clinical trials based on a network of relevant existing trials. The framework considers whether new trials are required and how the existing evidence can be used to answer the research question and plan future research. The potential of this approach has not been fully realized.


We conducted an online survey among trial statisticians, methodologists, and users of evidence synthesis research using referral sampling to capture opinions about the conditional trial design framework and current practices among clinical researchers. The questions included in the survey were related to the decision of whether a meta-analysis answers the research question, the optimal way to synthesize available evidence, which relates to the acceptability of network meta-analysis, and the use of evidence synthesis in the planning of new studies.


In total, 76 researchers completed the survey. Two out of three survey participants (65%) were willing to possibly or definitely consider using evidence synthesis to design a future clinical trial and around half of the participants would give priority to such a trial design. The median rating of the frequency of using such a trial design was 0.41 on a scale from 0 (never) to 1 (always). Major barriers to adopting conditional trial design include the current regulatory paradigm and the policies of funding agencies and sponsors.


Participants reported moderate interest in using evidence synthesis methods in the design of future trials. They indicated that a major paradigm shift is required before the use of network meta-analysis is regularly employed in the design of trials.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)
04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > CTU Bern

UniBE Contributor:

Nikolakopoulou, Adriani; Trelle, Sven; Egger, Matthias and Salanti, Georgia


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




BioMed Central




Andrea Flükiger-Flückiger

Date Deposited:

21 Jun 2019 11:02

Last Modified:

23 Oct 2019 02:10

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Conditional trial design Meta-analysis Network of interventions Sample size




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