Letters Duty to get involved in research

Postdoctoral progression is needed for doctors taking up clinical academic careers

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h6927 (Published 23 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6927
  1. Denise Best, academic clinical careers manager1,
  2. Joana Lopes, research and professional development officer1,
  3. Chris Pugh, director1
  1. 1Clinical Academic Graduate School, Room 3600 Medical Sciences Divisional Office, Level 3, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK
  1. denise.best{at}medsci.ox.ac.uk

Gulland’s article highlights the value to patients of doctors being involved in research.1 2 While this has been recognised in the NHS’s commitment to research,3 such involvement, we believe, must include sufficient numbers of doctors taking up clinical academic careers. Progress in healthcare requires that medically trained academics become principal investigators making significant contributions to both research and the translation of outcomes to patient care.

Yet, despite the efforts of funding bodies, the issue of dwindling numbers of clinical academics is not entirely resolved,4 and the reasons are not fully understood. An area of particular concern is postdoctoral progression. Each year an appreciable number of clinical lecturer posts, which enable postdoctoral clinicians to develop research independence, go unfilled.

To cast light on the underlying reasons, in 2013 the Oxford University Clinical Academic Graduate School (OUCAGS) established a longitudinal study of career decision making among medically qualified doctoral students registered at this institution. Preliminary findings indicate that, of UK doctors who intend to mainly work in clinical academic posts in the long term, only 66% are extremely or very likely to seek a clinical lectureship in England (unpublished data), which is surprisingly low given their stated career plans.

The complex underlying issues need exploration. UCL (University College London) is currently collaborating to investigate similar questions among its students, and we hope others will do likewise. This will allow the creation of a national picture, development of evidence based strategies to enhance clinical academic careers, and monitoring of the impact of proposed contractual changes.


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6927



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