Medical education research remains the poor relation

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 16 August 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:333
  1. Mathew Todres, research associate,
  2. Anne Stephenson, director of community education,
  3. Roger Jones, Wolfson professor of general practice
  1. Department of General Practice and Primary Care, King's College London School of Medicine, London SE11 6SP
  1. Correspondence to: R Jones roger.jones{at}
  • Accepted 4 June 2007

Research into medical education is stagnating and urgently needs the resources to become more rigorous and relevant say Mathew Todres, Anne Stephenson, and Roger Jones

The requirement that clinical practice should be based on the best available evidence has been paralleled by calls for medical education to become more evidence based.1 2 3 This has resulted, among other initiatives, in the establishment of the Best Evidence for Medical Education (BEME) Collaboration4 and the Campbell Collaboration, an off-shoot of the Cochrane Collaboration. The BEME initiative includes dissemination of best evidence to support medical education and the encouragement of a culture capable of nurturing more rigorous and better funded research.

Evidence from the United States suggests such nurturing is much needed. In 2004, Carline analysed reports of medical education research in two major North American journals (Academic Medicine and Teaching and Learning in Medicine) and found that only a minority of studies were supported by external research grants.3 She was critical about the quality, rigour, and generalisability of most of these studies. Her concerns were echoed last year by Chen and colleagues,5 who advocated moving the focus of medical education research from learners to patient oriented clinical outcomes, thus increasing the relevance and its likely attractiveness to funders. A review of 290 medical education studies published during 2002 and 2003 found that only one quarter had received external funding; the median amount of funding obtained was $15 000 (£7700; €11 500) with an interquartile range of $5000 to $66 500.6 Private foundations, as opposed to federal institutions, were the most common source of these research grants.

Recent medical education research

We were unable to find any recent information about the state of published medical education research in the UK and Europe. We therefore reviewed research published in 2004 and 2005 in two general medical …

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