Swedish clinical research is of high quality, a new ALF evaluation shows
The ALF evaluation, which is published today, shows a positive development for the quality of Swedish clinical research. At the same time, there are areas for improvement in all ALF regions evaluated – for example, time for research is often de-prioritised in favour of healthcare.
The Swedish Research Council has for a second time evaluated the quality of clinical research in the regions covered by the ALF agreement. The evaluation focuses on three main areas: the quality of scientific output, the clinical significance and societal impact of the research , and the prerequisites for the research. Three panels with international members evaluated and assessed the documentation sent in by the seven ALF regions.
The primary purpose of the evaluation is to identify, highlight and reward good examples in the ALF regions that stand out nationally through their quality work. These ALF regions can then function as quality-driving models, so that the long-term goal of promoting clinical research throughout the country can be achieved. Since 2019, a new allocation model has also been used, entailing that 20 per cent of the ALF funding for clinical research is allocated according to the result of the evaluation.
The current evaluation covers the development of Swedish clinical research since the last ALF evaluation, which was done in 2017–2018.
The result shows that the clinical research is of high quality, and that positive developments have occurred since the last evaluation. The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges in terms of delivering clinical research, but non-COVID-related clinical research has rapidly returned to the levels that prevailed before the pandemic. Sweden has also contributed internationally important research into COVID-19, partly due to the strengths of Swedish clinical research, which rapidly adjusted its focus to address the challenges of the pandemic.
Four ALF regions were awarded the grade ‘Very high quality’ in different areas:
- Stockholm: Quality of scientific output
- Uppsala: Quality of scientific output, and Clinical significance and societal impact of the research
- Västerbotten: Prerequisites for research
- Västra Götaland: Quality of scientific output and Prerequisites for research
“All ALF regions show strengths within different research fields, and this is reflected in the good examples highlighted by the panels. At the same time, we have established that there is further room for quality-enhancing measures in all ALF regions, and that the recommendation for more and larger national collaborations remains from the last evaluation,” says Katarina Bjelke, Director General of the Swedish Research Council.
This time too, the expert panels highlight Sweden’s good prerequisites for conducting clinical research, due to our access to various national infrastructures, quality registers and biobanks. But they also point out that greater national coordination between the quality registers could raise the quality of clinical research even further.
Another factor noted by the panels is that research time is often de-prioritised by the regions, in favour of healthcare.
“The fact that research time is de-prioritised is something that we at the Swedish Research Council consider serious. Clinical research in close collaboration with health and medical care results in great patient benefit. Opportunities to combine clinical work with research have been, and will continue to be, entirely crucial for the development of Swedish health and medical care,” says Jonas Oldgren, Secretary General of Clinical Research at the Swedish Research Council.
The seven ALF regions
Stockholm: Region Stockholm and Karolinska institutet
Västra Götaland: Region Västra Götaland and University of Gothenburg
Skåne: Region Skåne and Lund University
Uppsala: Region Uppsala and Uppsala University
Västerbotten: Region Västerbotten and Umeå University
Östergötland: Region Östergötland and Linköping University
Örebro: Region Örebro län and Örebro University
The Government Offices has recently appointed an inquiry tasked with producing supporting documentation for a re-negotiation of the ALF agreement. The aim is for the new agreement to contribute to physician education programmes of high quality, internationally competitive clinical research, and the development of knowledge-based, efficient and modern health and medical care.
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