Advancing ‘real-world’ trials that take account of social context and human volition

Trials. 2017;18(1):1-3 DOI 10.1186/s13063-017-2286-8


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Trials

ISSN: 1745-6215 (Online)

Publisher: BMC

LCC Subject Category: Medicine: Medicine (General)

Country of publisher: United Kingdom

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML



Anders Blædel Gottlieb Hansen (Strategic Research and Development Support, Metropolitan University College)
Allan Jones (Bachelor’s Degree in Global Nutrition and Health, Faculty of Health and Technology, Metropolitan University College)


Open peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 15 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Abstract Background The recent paper in Trials by Porter and colleagues highlights the utility of applying a critical realism approach in randomised trials, an approach central to the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Framework for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Healthcare Interventions. The MRC framework offers a pragmatic step towards a more open systems approach that bridges randomised evaluation with social context and human agency in an effort to improve the generalisability of trial outcomes. Main body The MRC framework has contributed to the proliferation of a more open systems approach in health research; however, the broader acceptance of the realist approach to health research does not seem to be emulated by norms in research fund allocation, which largely prioritises laboratory-based research. Conclusion This commentary is simply a plea, to those who make the strategic decisions regarding allocation of research funding, to support all phases of health intervention research in complex systems that contribute to the development of effective, translational and sustainable interventions in the promotion of health.