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Doctors cite lack of time as greatest barrier to research

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 15 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1488
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. London

A lack of time and money are the biggest barriers to doctors undertaking research, a report by the Royal College of Physicians has found.1

The survey of 2000 doctors asked them to rate a variety of barriers to research on a scale from zero to five. The barriers that respondents rated as having the biggest impact were difficulties in applying for, and receiving, both protected time and funding.

Respondents also said that the ethics approval process put them off—although the survey was carried out before the introduction of the simplified approvals system that is being phased in by the Health Research Authority. A lack of relevant skills also discouraged doctors from undertaking research.

However, the survey found that doctors were keen to undertake research, with just under two thirds (64%) saying that they wanted to get involved. The survey found that 23% of respondents were formally employed in a research role, while another 36% were involved in research but not in a formal capacity.

The top three reasons for becoming involved in research were: intellectual stimulus; the ability to make a contribution to a field/improve patient care; and the variety it brought to the job.

The report found that trusts’ research and development departments were variable in their openness to doctors wishing to undertake research. Some departments were “opaque, inaccessible, and, in some instances, a barrier to research.”

Perceived barriers cited by respondents included: excessive bureaucracy; lack of transparency; a focus on compliance, rather than enabling research; and a focus on well established or “big name” researchers around the hospital, rather than proactive encouragement of research participation across the workforce.

The report said that trusts should take steps to ensure that doctors had protected time for research, and that research and development departments enabled research, taking a “proportionate” approach to the risks of studies.

Margaret Johnson, Royal College of Physicians academic vice president and the report’s author, said, We know patients in research active institutions have better outcomes than those in other institutions, and are more likely to benefit from earlier access to new treatments, technologies, and approaches. We need to move more research to the bedside, so that more patients can enjoy these improved outcomes. We also want more physicians to engage in research, so that future patients can benefit from discoveries that have not yet been made. We want these discoveries to lead the rest of the world.”

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:


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