Prior Elicitation for Use in Clinical Trial Design and Analysis: A Literature Review.


Azzolina D(1)(2), Berchialla P(3), Gregori D(1), Baldi I(1).
Author information:
(1)Unit of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Public Health, Department of Cardiac Thoracic Vascular Sciences and Public Health, University of Padova, 35128 Padova, Italy.
(2)Department of Traslational Medicine, University of Eastern Piedmont, 28100 Novara, Italy.
(3)Department of Clinical and Biological Science, University of Turin, 10124 Turin, Italy.


Bayesian inference is increasingly popular in clinical trial design and analysis. The subjective knowledge derived from an expert elicitation procedure may be useful to define a prior probability distribution when no or limited data is available. This work aims to investigate the state-of-the-art Bayesian prior elicitation methods with a focus on clinical trial research. A literature search on the Current Index to Statistics (CIS), PubMed, and Web of Science (WOS) databases, considering "prior elicitation" as a search string, was run on 1 November 2020. Summary statistics and trend of publications over time were reported. Finally, a Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) model was developed to recognise latent topics in the pertinent papers retrieved. A total of 460 documents pertinent to the Bayesian prior elicitation were identified. Of these, 213 (45.4%) were published in the "Probability and Statistics" area. A total of 42 articles pertain to clinical trial and the majority of them (81%) reports parametric techniques as elicitation method. The last decade has seen an increased interest in prior elicitation and the gap between theory and application getting narrower and narrower. Given the promising flexibility of non-parametric approaches to the experts' elicitation, more efforts are needed to ensure their diffusion also in applied settings.