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RCP research: Developing your skills

The RCP seeks to support the development of research skills and tackle the barriers preventing clinicians being involved in research. Below you can find out more about funding, support for skills development and our journals, as well as hear about the experiences of others. 

To develop and support the workforce to become research active and innovative we have:

  • developed a four module e-learning ‘Research in practice’ programme for the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) in partnership with the British Pharmacological Society, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine and the Faculty of Public Health, and co-produced with patients and carers (see below)
  • worked on behalf of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) and NIHR to develop a clinician researcher credential
  • encouraged participation in clinical research networks
  • provided resources and funding awards to promote and celebrate research activity
  • worked to understand and address the barriers deterring RCP members from participating in research.

Clinician researcher credential and participation in clinical research networks

One of the biggest barriers to clinical participation in research in the NHS is perceived lack of skills (26%) according to findings from the recent RCP research survey. Yet three-quarters of respondents also see being involved in research as a way to develop a wider set of skills. Inequality of access to research remains a problem – the survey also found that women are 13% less likely than men to have undertaken formal academic training and less likely (5%) to have university-funded time as a new consultant than men (13%).

As part of the RCP research strategy, we now provide support to experienced clinicians across the profession seeking to develop their research skills via with a suite of courses and opportunities to work alongside others within a Clinical Research Network. This project was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. The RCP lead on behalf of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and worked in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Networks Co-ordinating Centre.

Find out more about the courses and universities delivering bursary-funded places.

For clinicians with little experience of research delivery and who have been in practice for four years or more, our ‘Research in practice’ programme is free to access on the NIHR’s e-learning hub (once you have set up an account). It offers four modules that incorporate elements needed to increase confidence while growing knowledge, skill and insight into clinical research. Find out more about the ‘Research in practice’ modules.

Resources and funding awards

We want to give physicians the tools to become research active, whether that’s information on what advice and support is available through NIHR, showcasing examples or directly funding physicians to undertake research through grants. Through awards like the Excellence in Patient Care Awards, we also strive to highlight the benefits of research activity and the ways that clinicians can become involved.


The RCP publishes two independent peer-reviewed journals, Clinical Medicine and the Future Healthcare Journal. We also publish Commentary, a bimonthly magazine for RCP members. 

Clinical Medicine is a resource for physicians seeking high-quality updates on clinical and professional topics, including original research and authoritative reviews in general medicine and across the specialties. Our popular CME section focuses on the latest developments in a specialty, with self-assessment questions for readers to gain CPD points. 

Future Healthcare Journal is the forum for authoritative, peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary research and debate on the future delivery of healthcare.  

Commentary delivers topical insight and opinion across a diverse range of subjects to inform, inspire and entertain our members and fellows.

Digital and online events

We've taken huge strides in our digital event capabilities this year, with over 18,000 delegates tuning into our highly rated webinars and online conferences since September. RCP Player has something for every career grade and specialty, ranging from 90-minute webinars to multi-day conferences. RCP Player also has a fantastic COVID-19 resource showcasing priority research studies, resetting of services and specialty updates.

Simply turn on, tune in and don’t miss out: player.rcplondon.ac.uk

Courses and online learning 

Medical Education Resource Centre 

Our Medical Education Resource Centre gathers together details of the RCP’s educational courses and online learning resources, including workshops and postgraduate training programmes. If you are interested in research or becoming a PI, relevant resources to support skill development will be posted on the resource centre; for example courses on essential skills such as project management and leadership.

If there is support not listed there that you would like to see or for any other queries about the resource centre, please email postgraduate@rcplondon.ac.uk

Chief Registrar Programme 

The Chief Registrar Programme is the RCP's flagship work-based leadership programme for senior doctors in training.  

It is a senior leadership role for doctors, which develops the clinical leaders of the future and ensures NHS organisations deliver the highest quality of treatment and care for patients.

The links between research and quality improvement (QI) are explored within the programme too, highlighting how QI tests the ability to adopt research outcomes and that QI activities themselves may generate new research hypotheses. Participants complete a significant QI project in their trusts to allow individuals to develop, test and evaluate changes in practice.

Blogs and top tips 

We've drawn together advice from our members explaining how they became involved in research, the challenges they overcame and their advice for physicians who are keen to become more research active but are unsure where to start.

Library clinical and educational material

The RCP library purchases ejournals, ebooks, bibliographic databases and print resources for members, course students and members of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine.

Understanding and addressing the barriers deterring RCP members from participating in research

Developing a research-active workforce means that we must first understand and address the barriers preventing more physicians from participating. Our research survey in 2020 found that a lack of time was the primary obstacle, with a perceived lack of skills and supportive culture also creating barriers. We also found that female physicians and those in rural hospitals found it more difficult to participate in research. 

RCP academic vice president Professor Cheng-Hock Toh set out the survey findings in a BMJ blog, outlining the concentration of research into centres based around medical schools and large university hospitals. Instead of accepting the situation, he urges doctors to recognise that research in the NHS is everyone’s responsibility and a core part of clinical care, and to take action to decrease the inequalities in the provision of and access to research. 

Other initiatives to improve the situation have been established by NIHR and other groups. The Centre for BME Health, which is supported by the NIHR, has shared tips on how to successfully involve people from BAME backgrounds in research, including a toolkit to help researchers address issues of inclusion and equality with respect to BAME communities.

Read more about what the RCP is doing to enable an equitable spread of research access, involvement, and funding in the UK, in this Lancet article.

Further reading

This report summarises the findings of a survey carried out in early 2020 examining the research activity of RCP members.

The RCP is deeply committed to improving access to clinical research and supporting the integration of research into everyday care. The RCP has produced a strategy to develop, deliver and drive research in the NHS; seeking to address the barriers to equality of access.