Introduction: In order to practice evidence-based veterinary medicine, good quality clinical evidence needs to be produced, in order that it can be apprasied systematically by the EBVM network, and used by vets. There is very little good-quality veterinary evidence for most of the veterinary procedures carried out every day across the world. Very few, if any, individuals have all the necessary qualities (case-load, time, research expertise, financial support) to be able to systematically produce good-quality, and relevant, clinical research on their own, in a timely manner. The Association for Veterinary Soft Tissue Surgery (AVSTS) www.avsts.org.uk is an affiliate group with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), and functions as a clinical network of like-minded individuals. In 2013 AVSTS sought to create a role for itself in facilitating the production (by its members) of multi-centre clinical research of relevance to its members.
Materials and methods: Members of AVSTS were asked to join the AVSTS Research Cooperative (ARC), with a veterinary epidemiologist and an experienced multi-centre veterinary clinical researcher (to help with study design and statistical planning), and the Animal Health Trust clinical research ethics committee. An email list was established, and a page was set up on the AVSTS website, to allow information to be disseminated. The AVSTS spring and autumn meetings were used as a regular forum by ARC, to discuss its direction, to generate interest, to create and promote specific studies (in order to widen participation amongst different centres), and to update members about previous studies.
Results: Membership of ARC has grown to 224 people, although the epidemiologist left. One multi-centre study has been published, two have been presented and await publication, one has been accepted for presentation, two other studies are gathering data at present, and further studies are in the pipeline. There has been interest from general practitioner members but as yet no studies of general practice procedures have been forthcoming.
Discussion: Vets want to be involved with clinical research. ARC has had early successes and will continue to grow - though more work is needed to encourage general practitioner members. Multi-centre research allows more cases to be recruited more quickly, adding weight to studies and shortening the period of data-gathering. These initial retrospective studies have generated a committed core of individuals seeking to create prospective studies together. An online tool is planned, to facilitate real-time case-recruitment
for prospective multi-centre studies including randomised controlled trials. Anyone can join ARC, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.