The Drugs Strategy Delivery Commission's (DSDC) Independent Expert Review of Opioid Replacement Therapies in Scotland (DSDC, 2013) made recommendations to the Scottish Government to address long standing deficits in terms of the availability of effective information systems and relevant research to inform drug policy in Scotland. Recommendation 10 stated:
"The Chief Medical Officer should task the Chief Scientist to consult with the academic community in Scotland and bring forward robust plans to develop a Scottish National Research Programme addressing the key substance use questions for Scotland. The aim should be to support and facilitate the delivery of efficient, high quality research into both the natural history of substance use - its development and progression - as well as the effectiveness of a broad range of treatment approaches - including psychological and social approaches as well as novel treatments"
A Research Steering Group was convened to progress the work. The steering group agreed the following broad principles regarding the form and scope of a collaborative national response:
- Scottish academics and a range of stakeholders should be involved in shaping the national research framework.
- The research priorities identified through an inclusive consultation process should be grouped under the broad themes of: Prevention; Harms; Progress (recovery) and Families.
- While Scottish academics and stakeholders should lead development of the research framework for Scotland, expertise from outwith Scotland should also be drawn upon when required.
Research gaps and priorities in Scotland
Initially, the steering group contacted academics who were active in the field in Scotland asking for an opinion regarding potential research gaps and priorities. A limited number of responses were received and these did not adequately address the wider strategic issues. Consequently, a number of invited stakeholders took part in a facilitated discussion with the steering group. Participants included university based academics as well as those involved in the field at many levels with the aim of having a balance of "top-down" and "bottom-up" perspectives. The discussion addressed each theme and focussed on research evidence gaps and what topics should be considered for inclusion on a list of research priorities. Wider research themes were also considered, for example the work undertaken at European level to identify common research priorities by the European Research Area Network on Illicit Drugs (ERANID).
The steering group agreed that the next step in this process would be to share a draft version of this research framework with a wide group of stakeholders for consultation.
Over 30 responses were received to the consultation exercise with some of the suggested changes reflected in this final document.
Email: Michael Crook
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