Published: 31-03-2023 15:27 | Updated: 31-03-2023 15:34

ALF evaluation: “Pointing the way to the further strengthening of clinical research”

Stockholm accounts for almost half of the clinical research conducted in Sweden. Photo: Erik Cronberg

“We’re delighted, and the VR’s rating gives us even more leverage for our work,” says Anders Gustafsson, former vice president of KI, who has helped lead the work on the national evaluation of the quality of clinical research that has now been published by the Swedish Research Council (VR). The ALF evaluation is based on the agreement that regulates KI’s collaboration with Region Stockholm on medical training, clinical research and care development.

“Many people have contributed to this result, and we now have an evaluation that can point the way to the further strengthening of clinical research,” says Clara Hellner, director of research and development at Region Stockholm.

The Swedish Research Council (VR) presented its evaluation of the quality of clinical research on 31 March, in which it gave KI and Region Stockholm a very high quality rating for the quality of scientific production, and a good to high quality rating for the clinical significance and societal benefit of research and for research conditions.

“We’ve been working hard and very well together in the KI-Region Stockholm partnership since the previous evaluation (2018), and it’s very pleasing to receive the highest rating for our scientific production – it shows how well we’re doing,” says Professor Gustafsson.

The evaluation highlights the very high quality of the stringency, importance and originality of clinical research production and demonstrates an impressive strength and depth of a wide range of clinical research fields. This achievement is exceptionally good in relation to the level of ALF funding.

“We’ve also worked hard on improving the implementation and societal benefit of clinical research and on creating better conditions for conducting high-quality clinical research,” says Professor Gustafsson. “The VR’s evaluation shows that our efforts have paid off, so we can be happy though not satisfied. This gives us more leverage for our work.”

Strong research culture

In it’s report, the Swedish Research Council makes special mention of KI’s strong research culture, its being a top-ranking university and the close links between its research and the life-science sector. The evaluation indicates negligible weaknesses in strategies and processes pertaining to clinical research, in the relationship between research and education, and in case studies. But the VR also points out that the region’s size is both a strength and a challenge, and emphasises that significant improvements to the conditions for clinical research have been made since 2018, including to the coordination of and access to research infrastructures in the region and in terms of KI’s excellent record when it comes to internationalisation. The evaluation also identifies improvement potential in the ability to secure research time and career opportunities.

“It’s essential that clinical research is transformed into patient and societal benefit  and this is something we will continue to prioritise in KI-Region Stockholm along with regional hospitals and other public and private-sector caregivers,” says Dr Hellner.

Successful implementation

The evaluation gave a very high quality rating to scientific production, which included all clinical publications for the years 2016 to 2020 and 107 specially selected clinical publications. A good example of a clinical study that has been successfully implemented in healthcare practice and that the evaluation draws attention to is the Stockholm Stroke Triage Project. The study has brought about a new way of evaluating and prioritising the care of acute stroke patients in Region Stockholm since 2017, which has led to faster care response times and the improved professional treatment of patients, as a study from Karolinska Institutet published in JAMA Neurology in 2020 shows.

Stockholm accounts for almost half of the clinical research conducted in Sweden. The purpose of the evaluation is to provide a basis for the distribution of 20 per cent of ALF funding and to identify, spotlight and reward good examples in the regions that stand out nationally for their quality work. The long-term goal is to enhance all clinical research conducted in Sweden.

On the steering group, which was tasked by the KI-Region Stockholm management group with preparing the Stockholm region’s response to VR on its evaluation of the quality of its clinical research, have been participants from KI, Region Stockholm and Karolinska University Hospital. Advisory boards and work groups have also supported the steering group in its work.