The Research for all report draws on the findings of a 2015 UK survey exploring the current barriers to doctors’ engagement in medical research. It takes a broad view of research, recognising that activities such as audit and quality improvement research have as important a role to play in building the best possible healthcare for everyone as clinical trials or genomic sequencing.

The data presented in the report will enable us to develop a comprehensive picture of how the UK’s flourishing health research economy can develop yet further. 

Key findings

  • Over a quarter of all research hours reported were worked by doctors who are not formally employed in a research role.
  • Many more doctors would like to do more research if they could.
  • Time and funding are the biggest barriers to doctors doing more research.
  • Women and men are equally likely to be employed in a research role, but men are more likely to engage in research in addition to their regular clinical duties.
  • Men and women are drawn to research for similar reasons, but women feel less confident about their skills than men.
  • Women find it harder than men to fit research in with family life, and some feel it can be unwelcoming to them when they do.
  • Both men and women consider it is unlikely that they will receive protected time for research, but women are significantly less confident than men to ask for it.
  • Foundation trainees and consultants are the most likely to engage in research outside of a formal research role, with a substantial dip in the core training (CT) and specialist training (ST) years.
  • Consultants are drawn to research because it is enjoyable and makes a difference, but for trainees getting a competitive edge is important.
  • As doctors’ careers progress, they become more confident about their skills and relationships – but for many this may come too late to feel they can become involved in research.
  • Exposure to research early in medical training is essential, but we also need a range of pathways into research later in doctors’ careers.
  • Being more engaged in research increases knowledge of the ethics approval process, but the perception that it is excessively complex remains consistent.

What next?

Throughout 2016, the RCP will work with partners to develop the support it offers to physicians who are active, engaged or interested in research – from sharing examples of good practice to offering practical resources. The findings of this report will be used to shape that work and help the RCP to further enhance the UK’s world-class research culture.

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