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Study Finds Incentives Improve Faculty’s Research Productivity

Published August 3, 2012

Elie Akl, MD, PhD

Elie A. Akl, MD, PhD

Strategies to assess and reward faculty productivity at American academic medical centers improve research productivity, according to a systematic review led by Elie A. Akl, MD, PhD.

They also may improve clinical productivity, but their impact on teaching productivity is far less clear.

“Enhancing the productivity of faculty in academic medical departments is essential for improving their reputation, and ensuring their growth.”
Elie A. Akl, MD, PhD
Associate professor of medicine, family medicine, social and preventive medicine

Compensation Strategies Lead to Culture Change

“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, associate professor of medicine, family medicine and social and preventive medicine.

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

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

Survey of Medicine Departments Planned

Akl and his colleagues next plan to survey chairs of departments of medicine across the country to better understand whether and how they are measuring and compensating faculty productivity.

“We need higher quality evidence about the potential benefits and harms of such assessment strategies,” he says.

Study Appears in Canadian Medical Association Journal

The current study, titled “Effects of assessing the productivity of faculty in academic medical centres: a systematic review,” was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

It involved comprehensively reviewing the medical literature for studies that evaluated strategies to assess faculty productivity, ultimately analyzing the results of eight relevant studies.

Akl’s co-authors are from UB; McMaster University, where he also has a faculty appointment; the Regina Elena National Cancer Institute in Rome, which funded the study; the German Cochrane Centre; the Institute of Biostatics and Medical Informatics; and the University Medical Center in Freiberg, Germany.