MBBS Curriculum 2020

2018 Annual Sowerby Lecture

13 November 2018 - 19:30-21:00

Reflections on why I want what I want from research and researchers — as a patient

Lecture: Sir Iain Chalmers

Theatre 2, New Hunt’s House, KCL Guy’s Campus

Video Recording

See this event also on Facebook.



A quarter of a century ago, I decided to ask myself what I wanted—as a patient—from health research and researchers. In a BMJ paper I stated that I wanted decisions about my health care to be informed by ‘reliable evidence’. I also noted that people are bound to vary in what they regard as ‘reliable evidence’, and that a leap of faith would anyway always be needed in judging what the effects of health care options would be for me, as an individual. But I also made clear that, for me, ‘reliable evidence’ would usually mean evidence derived from systematic reviews of carefully controlled evaluative research, assembled with an awareness of the ways in which biases and the play of chance can play us false.

I suggested in the paper that there had been too little support for the kind of applied health research that I felt I needed to inform my health care choices. And I gave examples of the damaging consequences that can result from insufficient attention to reducing the effects of biases and the play of chance.

My lecture will revisit the themes I addressed 25 years ago and reflect on why—as a patient—I still want what I wanted from research and researchers quarter of a century ago.


About the Speaker:

Iain Chalmers was founding director of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (www.npeu.ox.ac.uk) between 1978 and 1992, and founding director of the UK Cochrane Centre (www.uk.cochrane.org) between 1992 and 2002. Since 2003, he has coordinated the James Lind Initiative, which developed the James Lind Alliance between 2004 and 2013 (www.jla.nihr.ac.uk). Iain edits The James Lind Library (www.jameslindlibrary.org) and Testing Treatments international English (www.en.testingtreatments.org); he co-organised with Paul Glasziou the 2014 Lancet series on reducing waste and adding value in biomedical research (www.rewardalliance.net); and he is a co-investigator with Andy Oxman and colleagues in Norway and East Africa of the Informed Health Choices Project (www.informedhealthchoices.org).