Results Summary and Professional Abstract
Peer review of PCORI-funded research helps make sure the report presents complete, balanced, and useful information about the research. It also assesses how the project addressed PCORI’s Methodology Standards. During peer review, experts read a draft report of the research and provide comments about the report. These experts may include a scientist focused on the research topic, a specialist in research methods, a patient or caregiver, and a healthcare professional. These reviewers cannot have conflicts of interest with the study.
The peer reviewers point out where the draft report may need revision. For example, they may suggest ways to improve descriptions of the conduct of the study or to clarify the connection between results and conclusions. Sometimes, awardees revise their draft reports twice or more to address all of the reviewers’ comments.
The following are strengths and limitations noted in peer review, and the researchers’ responses:
- The reviewers applauded the researchers for providing a clear presentation not only of the research but also of their difficulties in implementing the palliative care intervention in nursing homes and in collecting data from staff.
- The reviewers requested clarification regarding the nature of this study, which the report described as testing efficacy (i.e., whether the intervention works when compared with no intervention). The researchers revised the report to indicate that the study looked at the intervention’s effectiveness (i.e., how well the intervention works in a real-world context).
- The reviewers asked the researchers to provide results from tests of the study’s main hypotheses in the final report’s abstract. The researchers responded that the report did provide results for the first hypothesis, but they were unable to test the second and third hypotheses because of problems collecting data.
- The final report emphasized the results of a sensitivity analysis showing that nursing home teams that were more functional, or working, had better implementation of the intervention than teams that were less functional, or nonworking. The reviewers noted that while the idea for this analysis came from preplanned in-depth interviews with nursing home staff, the analysis comparing working and nonworking nursing home teams was not preplanned and therefore should not be presented as key findings. The researchers responded that the report clearly presents these findings as sensitivity analyses and not as main findings.
- The reviewers asked the researchers to soften the conclusion that the intervention was effective, pointing out that the prespecified analysis across all nursing home teams, the main result, did not show the intervention to be effective. The researchers declined to revise their conclusions to downplay the importance of the analysis of working versus nonworking teams’ outcomes. The final report retains a focus on this post-hoc result, which reviewers described as hypothesis generating and not a confirmation of the intervention’s effectiveness.
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