I briefly met with the project management team of the E-COMPARED project (Heleen Riper, Christiaan Vis, and Jan Smit) and Annet Kleiboer (the representative of WP2) after the 4th consortium meeting in Paris and asked them to answer a few short questions about the E-COMPARED project.

Tobias Krieger (TK): Heleen, could you please introduce yourself?

Heleen Riper (HR): Hi, I am Heleen Riper and I am professor of E-mental health at the Free University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

TK: Could you please tell us what the E-COMPARED project is about?

HR: The E-COMPARED project is all about comparative effectiveness research. In this specific project we want to evaluate the comparative effectiveness of blended CBT treatment, blended meaning the combination of online and offline CBT components, compared to treatment as usual. We do that both from a cost-effectiveness perspective, as well as from a clinical perspective on the short- and longer-term.

TK: Thank you. Jan could you please introduce yourself?

Jan Smit (JS): My name is Jan Smit, I am a professor in methodology based at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, a specialized mental health hospital and I am a member of the project management team. I think with E-COMPARED we investigate an alternative how to tackle the challenges we face in mental health care in the coming years.

TK: Thank you! Christiaan, could I also ask you to introduce yourself.

Christiaan Vis (CV): I am Christiaan Vis and work in the team with Heleen Riper doing the project management, so the daily operational management of the consortium and making sure that everybody delivers what is promised on time in a decent and nice way.

TK: As a project management team, what are the challenges of E-COMPARED?

JS: Well, one of the big challenges is the data-collection, because countries differ a lot on what they have to offer and how to reach their patients. So we spent a lot of time and effort in getting data from all the countries and those are the major parts of the discussions in management. We did, and now we are entering a different phase.

HR: I think there is one step before, which is the recruitment. The data-management and the data-quality are of course extremely challenging. But the most difficult component of this project was the recruitment of participants. Maybe you can add something to that (pointing towards Annet Kleiboer [AK]).

AK: My name is Annet Kleiboer and I am an associate professor at the Free University of Amsterdam and my role in the project is to coordinate all the randomized controlled trials that are part of our package, too. So for instance where we collect the data, where we recruit patients and how it feeds into the rest of the project.

TK: That sounds like a challenging project to me. How do you tackle these challenges? What is your secret?

JS: Hard work!!!

HR: We recruited the right partners in this project, because what I think makes this project difficult and challenging, but also very fun to do, is that all the project partners are from different multidisciplinary backgrounds, they are from different countries, they have different expertise, you name it. The atmosphere is very good in the group and I think we have a limited number of high egos that we talked about before… except for Jan [laughter]… but you need at least one big ego [laughter]. Also, a project of this kind is also very difficult from a project management perspective with all the EU-requirements and Christiaan is an expert in this, so maybe he can elaborate on it further.

CV: One of the challenges lies in the communication between all the different partners. We have experienced partners in running and conducting these kinds of international projects, but still it remains a difficulty to keep everybody aligned and up-to-date with information that we have from the commission and the requirements that we need to deliver. That is basically my challenge, but we have a good team.

AK: And I think the communication is not only a challenge but also a strength, because partners can learn from each other.

JS: If I compare this consortium with other consortiums we are involved in, one of the big assets in this consortium is a group of people that have already been working with each other for a long time in different projects and different programs. So we have very short lines, and it’s not a completely new consortium. There are already good relations between partners. This helps a lot to do such an effort as in this project in such a short time.

CV: There is trust and that is very important.

HR: Yes, and I think that we also have very good support from the European commission. We are very happy with our project leaders over there, because they have been very supportive during difficult situations, which of course every project encounters, so I think we are very lucky. And of course, the topic is of great interest to us all.

TK: Do you want to add anything about the project that is on your mind?

HR: I think the meeting in Paris was such a good meeting, because for the first time we were able to share data, to spend three quarters of the meeting on the content, instead of the process and how we go about to organize it and about recruitment. I think everyone got a buzz out of that and of course we really hope that the results of the project will contribute to the improvement of depression treatment in a more cost-effective way throughout Europe.

TK: Thank you all for your time!