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A retrospective survey was conducted of 720 research protocols, approved by the Central Oxford Research Ethics Committee between 1984 and 1987, to determine the fate of research studies from inception. Forty-five per cent were clinical trials, 23% were observational studies and 32% were laboratory-based experimental studies. Further information was obtained on 487 studies, of which 287 (59%) had been completed, 100 (21%) had never started, 58 (12%) had been abandoned or were in abeyance and 42 (9%) were still ongoing, as of May 1990. Forty-three per cent of the original 487 studies were subsequently published or presented. The most frequent reason for not starting a study was failure to obtain funding (40%). The main reason for abandoning a study was difficulty in recruiting study participants (28%). Departure of one of the investigators from the institution and a variety of logistical problems were also common reasons for either not starting or abandoning a study. A thorough review of the pragmatic as well as the scientific aspects of a planned research project is important to minimize the initiation of studies that are unlikely to succeed.


Journal article


J R Soc Med

Publication Date





71 - 76


Biomedical and Behavioral Research, Central Oxford Research Ethics Committee, Empirical Approach, Biomedical Research, Clinical Trials as Topic, England, Ethics Committees, Research, Ethics, Medical, Humans, Patient Selection, Research, Research Design, Research Subjects, Research Support as Topic, Retrospective Studies