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Fostering the physician–scientist workforce: a prospective cohort study to investigate the effect of undergraduate medical students’ motivation for research on actual research involvement
  1. Belinda WC Ommering1,
  2. Floris M van Blankenstein1,
  3. Marjo Wijnen-Meijer2,
  4. Merel van Diepen3,
  5. Friedo W Dekker3
  1. 1Center for Innovation in Medical Education, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
  2. 2Medical Education Center, Technical University Munich, Munich, Germany
  3. 3Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Belinda WC Ommering; b.w.c.ommering{at}


Objectives The medical field is facing a physician–scientist shortage. Medical schools could contribute to developing physician–scientists by stimulating student involvement in research. Studies have examined motivation for research as a key parameter of success. However, previous studies did not investigate if students act on their self-reported motivation. The aim of this study is to examine if motivation for research of medical students is related to actual research involvement. Furthermore, this study distinguishes intrinsic (IM) and extrinsic motivation (EM) for research and aims to investigate if a type of motivation matters in the relation between research motivation and involvement.

Design and setting Prospective cohort study in which students were surveyed at the start of medical school and reported IM and EM for research, self-efficacy, perceptions of research and curiosity on a 7-point Likert scale. One year later, students involved in research were identified. Logistic regression was used to examine influences of IM and EM on research involvement.

Participants All undergraduate medical students starting at one medical school in the Netherlands in 2016. In total, 315 out of 316 students participated (99.7%), of whom 55 became involved in research (17.5%).

Main outcome measure Research involvement, which was operationalised as the enrolment of students in the research-based honours programme or the involvement of students in voluntary research activities outside of the regular curriculum.

Results Students with higher levels of IM were more often involved in research (OR 3.4; 95% CI 2.08 to 5.61), also after adjusting for gender, age, extracurricular high school activities, self-efficacy, perceptions and curiosity (OR 2.5; 95% CI 1.35 to 4.78). Higher levels of EM increased the odds of research involvement (OR 1.4; 95% CI 0.96 to 2.11). However, the effect of EM disappeared after adjusting for the above-mentioned factors (OR 1.05; 95% CI 0.67 to 1.63). Furthermore, the effect of IM remained after adjusting for EM, whereas the effect of EM disappeared after adjusting for IM.

Conclusions Our findings suggest that the type of motivation matters and IM influences research involvement. Therefore, IM could be targeted to stimulate research involvement and could be seen as the first step towards success in fostering the physician–scientist workforce.

  • education & training (see medical education & training)
  • medical education and training
  • statistical & research methods

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  • Contributors BWCO, FMvB, MW-M and FWD contributed to the design of the study. BWCO performed the data analysis. MvD and FWD supervised data analysis. BWCO, MvD and FWD interpreted the data. BWCO wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the revision of the manuscript and approved the final version for publication.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests No, there are no competing interests for any author.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the educational institutional review board of Leiden University Medical Centre: IRB reference number OEC/OG/20161108/2 and by the ethical review board of the Netherlands Association for Medical Education: reference number 952.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

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