Compared to experimental studies that require complex infrastructure such as laboratories or clinical trials at multiple centers, studies using a longitudinal cohort (a method of observational research in which data is collected for the same participants multiple times over a period of time). time) could be a good alternative for researchers at the start of their research careers.
“The Framingham Heart Study (FHS) is an excellent example of a database to initiate investigations and generate questions that could be followed later by experimental studies”, explains Hugo J. Aparicio, MD, MPH, assistant professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, in a perspective article in the journal Stroke.
Funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, FHS began in 1948, as a database of thousands of participants from Framingham, Mass., Who volunteered and shared their medical data and to advance clinical knowledge. Over the decades, FHS has helped answer key questions related to cardiovascular and neurological disease. Over 15,000 participants were included in the FHS studies, resulting in nearly 3,700 published articles using the data.
According to Aparicio, data from longitudinal cohort studies often contain more detail than administrative datasets, which can lead to searches with better data that can lead to higher impact publications. In addition, ongoing studies often have well-established research teams and experienced researchers with extensive experience. “Access to high quality data, mentorship and training in the research process are essential to launch a career in clinical research. “
However, he cautions that the use of longitudinal cohort studies poses certain challenges and limitations, including: the way the data is collected makes interpretation of results critical and requires careful consideration; the loss of follow-up when patients drop out of studies; and the difficulty of analyzing rare diseases caused by the limited number of participants compared to the total general population.
Either way, Aparicio hopes his perspective article will stimulate early career researchers to take advantage of these resources. “Beyond publication opportunities, joining a research team in a cohort study can open doors for mentorship, broaden research skills, and help target and refine your research path.”