Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Scandal of research waste

Research waste is still a scandal—especially in medical students

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 08 March 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l700
  1. Elliott Sharp, medical student,
  2. Keegan Curlewis, medical student
  1. Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton BN1 9PX, UK
  1. e.sharp1{at}

We thank Glasziou and Chalmers for their essay on research waste.1 As medical students in the UK, we feel pushed to complete research. No group is more susceptible to producing poor quality research than medical students. In the US, more medical students pursue research to improve job prospects than for academic interest.2 We too think it is necessary to complete research to remain competitive for future job applications, as do many of our peers, which indicates that the same motivators exist in the UK.

The UK uses standardised scoring systems for recruitment after medical school, in which authorship on up to two publications is rewarded.3 Motivators that favour quantity over quality exist in core training, specialty training, and at consultancy.4

We have two suggestions for shifting to a culture of research quality in recruitment to correct the wastefulness that persist in medical research.

Firstly, greater rewards must be given for participation in well designed and well conducted research, even if this does not result in authorship. Collaborative research networks such as Student Audit and Research in Surgery (STARSurg) allow development of teamwork and research skills without wasteful research.5

Secondly, greater rewards must be given to those who show advanced knowledge and understanding of research methodology and critical appraisal. This could be demonstrated by assessing knowledge in these areas beyond that expected for final exams in a similar manner to UK Academic Foundation Programme applications.6



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