Book And Multimedia Reviews: Media Review
Conducting Research in Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine A. M. Zbinden and D. Thomson, editors Woburn, Massachussetts: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2001. ISBN 0-7506-4544-x. 550 pp, $69.95.
Conducting Research in Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine is a multiauthored text edited by A. M. Zbinden and D. Thomson from the Department of Anesthesiology of the University Hospital in Berne, Switzerland. The purpose of this book is to explain in a very pragmatic fashion the individual steps required to perform successful research. This is a dense book consisting of 20 chapters and 550 pages. It is an invaluable addition to the library of any person undertaking an academic career. It is specifically directed toward anesthesiologists and intensivists but would be of value to an investigator in many branches of medicine. It is a “How to....” book and, in fact, every chapter title begins “How to....” A few chapter titles indicate the valuable information available in this book: “How to Fund Research,” “How to Design Trials/Studies,” and “How to Perform Statistical Analysis.”
The book is introduced with a Foreword by Lawrence Saidman who, as former editor of Anesthesiology, apparently suffered through many ill-designed trials and poorly written manuscripts (a few of which were this reviewer’s). He highly recommends the text for young scientists, but this text is valuable for any age investigator. Although it will help the younger investigator avoid many pitfalls in preparation, design, and performance of a clinical trial, it would serve as an excellent source book for the more senior academic. Although the style of each author is considerably different, all authors have taken a very practical approach to their subject. The chapter entitled “How to Perform Statistical Analysis” points out that the statistical software available makes it easy to analyze data in the wrong way. The purpose of this chapter is to explain the rationale for using a particular type of statistical analysis, rather than reiterating the “plug-in-the-data” approach one often gets with statistical software.
The majority of the authors are from Europe, hence the relevance of the chapter entitled “How to Use the English Language” and the attention of one of its section to particular trouble spots for nonnative writers. Any chapter can be read independently and does not necessarily need to be read in context with preceding chapters. However, the authors have designed the book to have the progression that one might take in initiating a study. The first chapter, “How to Perform a Search in the Biomedical Literature,” is a recommended starting point in the embryonic stages of forming a hypothesis that might be worth testing. Thereafter, the progression is apparent, read, fund, design, organize and perform, analyze, write, and present. Additional chapters deal with how to make specific types of measurements, and how to do experiments in human volunteers.
Although there is some repetition from chapter to chapter, overall this is a successful synthesis of many of the elements needed to accomplish successful research. The only aspect that was given little attention and that has been overlooked in our literature is the issue of developing an academic career. This is primarily a book derived from European experience, and general advice regarding career development might be quite different between the two continents. Nevertheless, the mechanical aspects of performing research described in the 20 chapters would benefit from being put in the context of a career and the need for endurance in successfully constructing a research story.
Thomas J. J. Blanck, MD, PhD
Professor and Chairman
Department of Anesthesiology
New York University Medical Center
New York, NY