The data-fuelled future of clinical trials: An interview with Eugene Garfield Award 2021 winner Elena Pallari

The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)™ caught up with postgraduate researcher Elena Pallari, University College London (UCL), about what winning the 2021 Eugene Garfield Award for Innovation in Citation Analysis means for her research plans and how she hopes to spur innovation in clinical trials methodology.


Can you tell us a bit about the project proposal you submitted for this award?

My project proposal is about the application of a unique approach of bibliometric evaluation to citation impact which will examine not only the characteristics of a group of papers but also the characteristics of their citing papers. For this project I will use a set of papers concerning methodological research for clinical trials within the published portfolio of the U.K. Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Trials Unit at UCL, to:

  1. Establish the evidence base for exploring the value of bibliometric indicators. For example, new methodological developments can have little or no impact on new clinical studies or further methods or research, and the rate of change can be particularly slow. This underlines the importance of capturing methodological research impact to be able to measure and, if possible, improve influence on funding, policy, practice, health outcomes, etc.
  2. Support the development of a comparative cohort. For example, does the MRC unit have a different or better influence on the design, conduct or analysis of clinical trials compared to other similarly performing units?
  3. Provide an indirect link back to the methodology papers. For example, how have improvements in clinical trial methodology led to better clinical trials? How have these studies been selected as good evidence underpinning the clinical recommendations in clinical practice guidelines?


How does it feel to be the recipient of the 2021 Eugene Garfield Award for Innovation in Citation Analysis?

I feel privileged to have been selected as the recipient of the 2021 Eugene Garfield Award. It is an honor that my contribution has been recognized as innovative with the potential to advance citation analysis in clinical trials methodology. The award empowers me to progress my research in translating evidence from methodological research underpinning clinical trials into practicable use. To date, bibliometric evaluation and development of indicators for the field of methodology research for clinical trials has not been explored and neither has the evaluation of group-level impact. This award is a milestone in my career which will help me focus on citation analysis for clinical trials methodology.


Tell us a bit about yourself and the research that fascinates you.

My background is in biochemical engineering from UCL with specialization in pharmaceutical medicine and quality improvement from King’s College London.

Currently I am exploring the impact of methodological research for clinical trials at UCL. I am fascinated by any research that advances human health and wellbeing, and I am lucky to be in a unit where researchers work on the design, conduct and analysis of clinical trials in cancer and infectious diseases. Such research fascinates me because it is of value to a range of different stakeholders including funders, policymakers, clinicians, patients and health regulatory agencies.


As the recipient of the Eugene Garfield Award, you have won $25,000 and gained access to Web of Science data. How do you plan to use this for your future research?

The award provides access to an incredible resource of a wide range of data on the Web of Science™ that is important to my research. I hope I can make use of these data to check for relevance and validity to the group-level metric I intend to develop. The funding will also kickstart the processes of setting up my own research group which will evaluate research impact in the field of clinical trials methodology, and devising indicators that methodologists can consider when designing and publishing their work.


Where do you see the future direction of scientometrics heading?

Scientometrics as a field has fantastic potential to serve the vast scientific research community and beyond, in any research area. For example, devising metrics around clinical trial design can benefit from cross-collaboration and industrial input, helping to harmonize regulations and speed up the evaluation of methods for bringing medicines to the market more quickly, safely and efficiently.

Another example is examining how this impact differs across the different stages of clinical trials methodology: from the analysis and reporting that could translate into tangible outcomes for public research funding, to the minimization of resource waste, and the increase of evidence use into clinical practice for patient benefit.


Is there anything else you would like to add?

It is wonderful that Clarivate™ supports young researchers like myself to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Eugene Garfield in bibliometrics. As researchers, we ought to serve the field of research on research by being responsible in the set-up and use of appropriate metrics that capture the true value of and quality of scientific research, and not inappropriate numerical appropriation of indicators.


Through the methodological assessment of impact on science, policy and clinical practice we can identify the contribution of research to further scientific discoveries and track scientific progress that is of value to invested public funding.


Find out more about the Eugene Garfield Award and other Clarivate Researcher Recognition programs here.