The UK Clinical Eye Research Strategy Unveils New Priorities

The UK Clinical Eye Research Strategy has embarked on a transformative journey to update and refine research priorities in ophthalmology. We delve into the key findings and implications of this groundbreaking initiative, aimed at reshaping the landscape of eye research in the United Kingdom.

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Setting the Stage: The journey began with a reflection on the previous James Lind Alliance Sight and Vision Loss Priority Setting Partnership (SVLPSP), which laid the groundwork for identifying pressing research priorities in ophthalmology. Building upon this foundation, the UK Clinical Eye Research Strategy sought to refresh and realign these priorities to reflect the evolving needs of patients, healthcare professionals, researchers, caregivers as well as new and emerging technologies. 

Methodology: A rigorous methodology underpinned the endeavor, involving the collaboration of five Clinical Study Groups and the participation of over 2,240 individuals representing diverse stakeholders. Through an extensive online survey, invaluable insights were gathered, illuminating the most urgent research questions within each subspecialty of ophthalmology. The development and pilot testing of the survey was undertaken by two ophthalmology research trainees. The final drafting of the manuscript also involved three additional trainees identified by the Clinical Study Group Chairs. We were delighted to have them on board with analysing and presenting the results as well as the production of the final report.

Challenges: We spent quite some considerable time testing and piloting different survey software platforms to ensure we used the correct one and that it was not too onerous to complete as well as being user-friendly. We piloted both Microsoft forms, SmartSurvey  and Google forms with production of prototypes.  REDCap was a strong contender but this was not pursued due to installation arrangements. Unfortunately, none achieved the technical functionality and power of SurveyMonkey which had a cost implication compared to these others.  

Benefits: The research priority questions across the different sub surveys ranged from a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 16 questions so the use of SurveyMonkey was ideal to enable filtering and ranking. 

The addition of lay summaries to each of these 98 research priority questions was an added benefit to this survey led by the CSG Chairs and their committee groups.

 We were also fortunate to have engaged with some of the original individuals who were involved with the 2013 SVLPSP and also have them included in this work. They all provided a very good perspective and insight into the original work in comparison to the refresh especially with regards to the groups and the process of formulating the original research priorities.  

Key Findings: The findings revealed a mosaic of research priorities, spanning diverse areas of ophthalmology. From the prevention of cataracts to the exploration of novel treatments for uveitis, each subspecialty presented unique challenges and opportunities for advancement. 

Implications: These findings signal a pivotal moment in the trajectory of eye research in the UK. They serve as a compass, guiding targeted research proposals aimed at addressing the substantial burden of disability caused by eye diseases. By aligning research efforts with the most pressing needs identified by stakeholders, the UK Clinical Eye Research Strategy aims to foster collaboration and drive impactful research initiatives that enhance eye health and quality of life for all.

Conclusion: The UK Clinical Eye Research Strategy stands poised to lead the change in advancing vision care. Through a commitment to collaboration, innovation, and impact, we embark on a journey to unlock new frontiers in ophthalmic research, enriching the lives of individuals and communities across the United Kingdom and beyond. 

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