Study finds that assessments and incentives for medical faculty productivity improve research

June 20, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Strategies introduced to assess -- and reward -- the productivity of faculty at academic medical centers in the U.S. do improve faculty research productivity, according to a systematic review recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Such strategies also may result in improved clinical productivity, the study found; however, their impact on teaching productivity is far less clear.

"When strategies are introduced to assess productivity as part of a compensation scheme, they appear to improve productivity in research activities," says Elie A. Akl, MD, MPH, PhD, lead author and associate professor of medicine, family medicine and social and preventive medicine at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and School of Public Health and Health Professions. Akl also has an appointment at McMaster University.

"The data suggest that when faculty productivity is assessed in connection with an appropriate compensation or incentive scheme, the results can create positive cultural change within a department, helping it to achieve its mission," says Akl.

The strategies may have had no apparent effect on teaching productivity, Akl says, because there truly is no effect, or because the studies included in this analysis were unable to detect one.

"Enhancing the productivity of faculty in academic medical departments is essential for improving their reputation, and ensuring their growth," says Akl. "This has become vital for survival amid current financial realities."

He and his co-authors comprehensively and systematically reviewed the for studies that evaluated strategies to assess the productivity of faculty, ultimately analyzing the results of eight relevant studies.

"When these kinds of productivity assessments coupled with compensation or incentive schemes are introduced, we found that compensation increased at both group and individual levels, particularly among junior faculty," says Akl.

In order to better understand whether and how departments of medicine in the U.S. are measuring and compensating the of their faculty, Akl and his colleagues are currently planning a national survey of chairs of departments of .

Akl notes: "We need higher quality evidence about the potential benefits and harms of such assessment strategies."

Explore further: Skewed results? Failure to account for clinical trial drop-outs can lead to erroneous findings in top medical journals

More information: The paper is available at www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2012/05/28/cmaj.111123

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