Mission and approach of the Research spearhead group
What does an epidemiological researcher do?
An epidemiologist has knowledge of methodological research techniques, applies different designs in his/her studies, and possesses the qualifications to set up and carry out high-quality human-related research. This research is conducted in the areas of aetiology (research into risk factors for disease), diagnostics (evaluation of the added value of new diagnostic tools), prognostics (identification of factors that contribute to predicting outcomes after illness) and therapy (research into the effectiveness of new treatments). Thus, the epidemiologist contributes to the advancement of knowledge needed to promote health and improve patient care.
What is the role of the Spearhead Group on Research?
Epidemiology is a field that is subject to development and innovation, while at the same time resting on a solid foundation of methodological knowledge. Where the basis is strongly anchored in the different master programs in epidemiology, it is a challenge for the epidemiologist to keep his/her knowledge up to date in the field of new developments. Within the VVE, we as Spear Group Research offer a platform to learn from each other and to ensure quality. The Research Group sees it as its task to ensure that information on advanced methodological topics is easily found and accessible to VvE members, so that every epidemiologist can master new methodology and it thus becomes part of the standard tool of the epidemiologist. We do this by compiling information and making it available to our members and by (contributing to) the organisation of scientific meetings.
How do we guarantee high-quality research?
Because epidemiological research is about people and health, it is invaluable to collaborate with colleagues in the field. To ensure that the results are actually relevant to practice, it is crucial that the data and methods we use are reliable. Within the Society for Epidemiology, we want to facilitate the broad implementation of knowledge on new methodology and thus ensure that the quality of research remains high. An example of our work to ensure high quality research is the development of the Responsible Epidemiologic Research Practices (RERP) guideline. The RERP is about conducting population-based research in the medical field. The reasons for drawing up this guideline were publications on the prevention of 'questionable research practices' and 'research waste' and on improving transparency and accountability. The guideline advises on how epidemiological studies should be conducted and documented.
What can you expect behind the wall?
For members of the VvE we have set up a portal on which extensive documentation can be found on all kinds of methodological subjects. For each topic, an expert shares information that can help an epidemiologist build, keep up-to-date and/or apply knowledge. Examples of topics include the use of real-world data, causality, information on how to deal with missing data, and so on. Examples of information that can be found here are the most important publications on the subject, a presentation by (inter)national experts, information on who is working on this subject in the Netherlands, but also which statistical platforms can be used for the analyses, scripts with explanations or powerpoint slides that can be used for education. So everything that an epidemiologist in the field needs to carry out his/her research, or to help a new generation of epidemiologists to internalize this knowledge by including it in the curriculum of their own master's program or courses given. Each topic is maintained by an expert. A list of epidemiologists or professional groups specialising in that methodological field is also included. This allows the member to know who are the people to involve in their research, which can then lead to new collaborations.