IBTN Chair in Innovative Behavioural Trials

Under the CIHR’s SPOR initiative, IBTN Co-Chair Dr. Simon Bacon has been awarded a 5-year Chair to focus on improved behavioural clinical trials.


Obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are key risk factors for a number of major chronic diseases, and they are heavily influenced by a specific cluster of poor health behaviours (e.g., smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, stress). Positively changing these behaviours has been shown to prevent and/or improve these 3 conditions. However, the exact behavioural interventions that work best on specific people are still to be determined. Part of the problem is that many studies have not been designed to adequately answer these kinds of questions. Limitations in the literature are a direct reflection of the methodological design issues with the extant studies, which have generally poorly developed and weakly tested interventions. The use of newer innovative, patient-oriented, behavioural trial designs holds great promise to efficiently and effectively assess behavioural interventions which can be quickly moved to clinical practice.

The objective of Dr. Bacon’s Chair is to train more people to be able to use potentially better study designs in order to understand how we can best change people’s behaviours to improve their health.

The project involves training approximately 150 students, research fellows, and new investigators in improved study designs over the course of 5 years. It will be accomplished in collaboration with a Stakeholder Council composed of international experts, local, national, and international organisations, patients, healthcare professionals, and policy makers. Patients will constitute more than half of the Council’s membership. The project will also involve a Mentee Forum consisting of all the funded mentees.

The Chair will provide scholarship funding for up to 7 postdoctoral fellows and up to 12 graduate students, offer direct pilot funding to kickstart novel projects, develop an exchange program to enhance multidisciplinarity and create opportunities for long-term collaboration/capacity building. In addition, a yearly summer school conducted by world-renowned experts will focus on hands-on activities, plenary sessions, and workshop activities, including opportunities to learn, network, share, workshop, and establish strong collaborative ties across the globe. The Inaugural IBTN Summer School will be the first edition of this initiative and will take place in Montréal, Canada, from May 21 to 26 2018.

Key partners for this project include Concordia University and CIUSSS-NIM at the local level, the Québec SPOR Support Unit and the Réseau de recherche sur la santé cardiométabolique, le diabète et l’obésité at the provincial level, Diabetes Canada and Hypertension Canada at the national level, and the International Behavioural Trials Network and CEPS Platform at the international level. These organisations will provide expertise, skill, and support for both patient-oriented research and innovative behavioural trial design.

The cornerstones of Dr. Bacon’s training program will be built around Multidisciplinary mentorship, through the incorporation of a diverse international mentorship team, Training in multiple environments by offering opportunities to participate in a variety of different research settings, Best practices and resource sharing by partnering with key organisations that provide complementary expertise and capacity, and Professional skills development through the research programs which form part of the core of this initiative.


The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) is geared towards fostering evidence-informed health care by bringing innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to the point of care. It aims to ensure greater quality, accountability, and accessibility of care. It is founded on the principle that a continuum of research should engage patients as partners, focus on patient-identified priorities, and improve patient outcomes. SPOR chairs and funding seek to help develop capacity, establish collaborative networks and support units, and improve competitiveness in conducting clinical trials.