When you are running clinical trials, there are a lot of factors that you need to take into consideration. You might not be thinking as much about the environmental impact of them. However, this is an important factor, as environmental issues become more emphasized in the healthcare and medical science sectors.
Last month, we mentioned that Canada is taking steps to lower the carbon footprint of its healthcare system. While it is encouraging to see front-line healthcare providers help make their services more eco-friendly, it is also important to reduce the carbon footprint of clinical research.
Benedette Cuffari, M.Sc wrote an article in News Medical titled The Carbon Footprint of Clinical Trials that talked about this underdiscussed topic. She pointed out that while the healthcare industry saves lives, but it also harms the environment. The industry releases 4.4 to 4.6% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
Clinical trials contribute to this problem, with over 350,000 trials emitting 27.5 million tons of GHG emissions. This is equivalent to over 30% of Bangladesh’s total emissions, a country with over 163 million people.
When you are running a clinical study, you need to make sure that you are doing evyerhting possible to lower your carbon footprint.
Lowering the Carbon Footprint of Your Clinical Studies
There are more than 150,000 clinical trials in the United States alone, and in this fast-paced world of clinical research, managing numerous projects simultaneously within a limited timeframe is a common occurrence. Successfully managing your clinical research workload is crucial for ensuring the efficiency and quality of your work.
A lot of factors are discussed when running clinical studies. Increased workloads can stem from various scenarios, such as tight deadlines, complex study designs, unexpected events, or additional tasks assigned by supervisors. To avoid becoming overwhelmed and maintain a high level of productivity, implementing effective time management and organizational strategies is essential.
With all of these issues at hand, it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of lowering the carbon footprint of your study. However, as this study in The Lancet points out, these studies have a negative effect on the planet that needs to be reigned in.
In 2009, a study of 12 randomized trials found that their carbon emissions were equivalent to nine people in the UK for one year. Little has been done since then to reduce carbon consumption in clinical trials, except for the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Carbon Reduction Guidelines. However, the climate crisis has become more urgent, and many governments, companies, and organizations, including NHS England, have pledged to achieve net-zero carbon by mid-century.
To help you out, we will provide you with practical tips for managing your clinical research workload and lower your study’s carbon footprint, whether you are an entry-level researcher or an expert working on clinical trials for a specific disease or drug.
Have a Means for Measuring the Carbon Footprint of Your Clinical Trial
You can’t lower the carbon footprint of your clinical trial without knowing what it is in the first place. To reduce the carbon footprint of clinical trials, a tool is needed to measure their carbon impact. The Sustainable Healthcare Coalition, created by NHS England, is testing a tool to identify carbon-heavy elements of trials.
A working party of triallists, clinicians, and commercial companies is collaborating to achieve net zero carbon footprint. While no tool is perfect, the one being tested by the coalition is expected to be reliable for measuring progress and benchmarking.
Focus on Clinical Study Management
Managing a clinical research workload can be challenging, especially when juggling several projects simultaneously with tight deadlines. To ensure the efficiency and quality of your work, it’s crucial to implement effective time management and organizational strategies. This is especially important considering that increased workloads can come from a range of sources, from complex study designs to unexpected events or additional tasks assigned.
Sometimes, having an expert partner, such as Alimentiv, can be all the help you need to effectively manage the entire clinical research process. By working with a team of global experts, you can expect to have better:
- Feasibility Assessment. Early feasibility assessment using expert insights in medical, operations, biostatistics, regulatory, and laboratory aspects can significantly enhance the reliability of planning decisions for your clinical study.
- Scientific and Safety Review. Have a multi-disciplinary team of experts conduct scientific, statistical, and safety assessments of your proposed study, providing recommendations to improve your protocol and optimize site selection, patient recruitment, patient safety, and study timeline decisions.
- Operational Review. Working with veterans in the field of clinical study can help you assess study risks, optimize protocol design, and select appropriate countries, sites, and patient populations, setting your study up for success before you even unpack your testing kits.
- Project Execution and Control. An expert team can serve as the center of communication and coordination for all activities from all functional groups contracted for a project, providing ongoing review and management of project plans, risk assessments, training needs, timelines, contracts, and study resources.
Look to Grants that Reward Trials with Low Carbon Footprints and Adhere to their Metrics
You will find some grants that offer funding to researchers with low carbon footprints. You will need to be aware of the requirements and have a strategy to adhere to them.
To reduce the carbon footprint of trials, incentives are necessary. All stakeholders, including sponsors and funders, have important roles. Researchers should justify the carbon footprint to their stakeholders and show that it is as low as possible. Grant proposals should include the carbon footprint and measures to reduce it. Funders must decide if the knowledge gained justifies the carbon consumption.
Be Selective of The Projects You Accept
It is crucial to carefully select the right research studies to pursue. Rather than accepting any study that comes your way or is offered by your CRO, it is important to focus on highly relevant and well-designed studies that will have a positive impact. To achieve this, we recommend creating a checklist of key criteria that define quality studies and assist you in intelligently selecting the best studies for your site.
Among the key factors to consider are the relevance of the study to your specialty area, the strength of the study design and funding structure, and the level of support provided by the sponsoring institution. By following this checklist, you can optimize your chances of sourcing top-tier studies and ultimately translating them into successful clinical trial outcomes.
Take Breaks and Practice Self-Care
Clinical research work can be demanding, with long hours and tight schedules, leaving little room for self-care or breaks. However, neglecting self-care can result in burnout, decrease productivity, and even negatively impact your overall health.
To avoid burnout, it’s essential to take breaks, learn how to stop bad habits, and practice self-care regularly. This includes allocating time for hobbies, exercise, and relaxation to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Engaging in activities you enjoy can help reduce stress levels and promote a positive mindset, increasing your overall productivity and work quality.
Reflect and Learn From Experience
After completing a research trial, take the time to evaluate your successes and areas for improvement. Use this information to continuously improve your workflow management skills and become more efficient and effective.
Take a moment to realize just how much you are helping the world and that your work is not just about paperwork but about finding breakthroughs.
Manage the Effectiveness of Your Clinical Trial without Increasing its Carbon Footprint
As a clinical researcher, juggling multiple projects at once can be a challenging task. It can be even trickier if you are trying to minimize your carbon footprint. Nevertheless, managing your workload effectively is essential for your research project’s success and conduct it in an eco-friendly manner. Consider these practical tips to help you stay organized, motivated, and focused on achieving your research goals.