Commentary: The Relative Research Unit: Providing Incentives for Clinician Participation in Research Activities

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Abstract

Recent nationwide initiatives to accelerate clinical and translational research, including comparative effectiveness research, will increasingly require clinician participation in research-related activities at the point-of-care, activities such as participant recruitment for clinical research studies and systematic data collection. A key element to the success of such initiatives that has not yet been adequately addressed is how to provide incentives to clinicians for the time and effort that such participation will require. Models to calculate the value of clinical care services are commonly used to compensate clinicians, and similar models have been proposed to calculate and compensate researchers' efforts. However, to the authors' knowledge, no such model has been proposed for calculating the value of research-related activities performed by noninvestigator–clinicians, be they in academic or community settings. In this commentary, the authors propose a new model for doing just that. They describe how such a relative research unit model could be used to provide both direct and indirect incentives for clinician participation in research activities. Direct incentives could include financial compensation, and indirect incentives could include credit toward promotion and tenure and toward the maintenance of specialty board certification. The authors discuss the principles behind this relative research unit approach as well as ethical, funding, and other considerations to fully developing and deploying such a model, across academic environments first and then more broadly across the health care community.

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