Context: The Institute of Medicine has called for increased rigor of education research and funding to support educational innovation. However, funding for medical education research is scarce. The costs of conducting studies in medical education and how such research is currently funded have not been systematically evaluated. Objectives: To determine how medical education research studies that were recently published were funded and to approximate the costs of conducting these studies. Design, Setting, and Participants: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of first authors of medical education studies published from September 1, 2002, to December 31, 2003. Original medical education research studies conducted at US institutions and published in 13 prominent peer-reviewed journals were included. Main Outcome Measures: For each study we measured duration, percentage of the authors' total work commitment ("percentage effort") devoted to the study, resources used and their costs, attainment of funding, and the first author's estimated cost of conducting the study. The cost of each study was calculated by multiplying the percentage effort of each author for the duration of the study by the national median salary for each author, according to specialty and academic rank, and then adding the costs of resources used. Results: Responses were received from authors of 243 (84%) of 290 identified medical education studies. The median calculated cost of conducting the 243 studies was $24 471 (interquartile range [IQR], $11 531-$63 808). The median authors' estimate of study cost was $10 000 (IQR, $4000-$25 000). Some funding was obtained for 72 (29.6%) of the studies. Of studies that were funded, the median amount of funding was $15 000 (IQR, $5000-$66 500). The median calculated cost of funded studies was $37 315 (IQR, $18 731-$82 393). Private foundation grants were the most common funding source (n=30 [41.7%]). Factors independently associated with attaining funding were training in grant writing (odds ratio, 2.05; 95% confidence interval, 1.11-3.79) and number of medical education studies published by the first author (odds ratio, 2.4; 95% confidence interval, 1.24-4.63). Conclusions: The majority of published medical education research is not formally funded, and the studies that do receive support are substantially underfunded. To realize the Institute of Medicine's directive and to improve the quality of medical research, policy reform that increases funding for medical education scholarship will likely be required.
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