Photot of someone in protective suit dealing with ebola outbreak with title

Researcher: Professor Jacco Thijssen


The Ebola crisis brought into sharp contrast the importance of appropriate regulation for trials of new drugs. The “gold standard” in clinical research is the randomised trial, but the reliance on one particular measure of evidence arguably risks lives and may be holding back our efforts to defeat a disease which has sparked fear around the globe.

A typical Randomised Clinical Trial (RCT) aims to show if a new treatment is better than an existing one, or better than no treatment at all when none has so far been developed. To do that, a statistical tool is used to discover if a positive result might be a fluke or if the results are “statistically significant”. It is a dominant technique, but one which says nothing about the actual effect of the new treatment and which fails to take into account the opportunity costs of doing nothing: how many lives are lost while we conduct our trial? It is this disregard for the consequences of the actions following a trial like this that makes the one-size-fits-all approach to assessing the success of a treatment a potential killer.


The aim is to address these issues by developing a mathematically, statistically, and decision theoretically robust model for clinical trials collaboration.  This work will lead tothe determination of optimal sample sizes in real time and, thus, improve the cost-effectiveness of medical decision making as well as maximising the health benefits of new technologies to the population.

Research and its wider impact

The York Management School greatly values theoretical advance that is achieved through interdisciplinary research teams and has impact in business, public sector, charities and wider society. Here we are profiling a variety of examples of our research projects that are complete as well as ongoing.

 Photo credits: Taking the fight to Ebola. European Commission DG ECHOCC BY-ND