Measuring Contributions to the Research Mission of Medical Schools


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Abstract

The authors of this article, who were the members and staff of a research panel formed by the AAMC as part of its mission-based management initiative, reflect on the growing interest in quantitative information in the management of the research mission of medical schools. They note the serious limitations of any such system of measures for research, particularly its inability to represent directly the quality of the research effort. Despite these concerns, the authors acknowledge that leaders in academic medicine have always used quantitative measures in one form or another to compare performance or assess progress. Two factors appear to be driving increases in this practice: (1) the need to demonstrate to institutional stakeholders that resources are being used wisely and that the school's performance justifies continued investment in the research mission; and (2) the need to fashion an economic strategy to manage precious institutional resources, particularly research space. Given these realities, the authors offer guidelines for the proper development and use of measures to assess contributions by faculty, departments, and institutions to the research mission. They also comment on the measures most commonly used in four areas: grants and other revenue-generating activities; publications; faculty members' research reputation and contributions to the national research enterprise; and support to the general research mission of the school. The authors conclude that quantitative information can help institutional leaders in important management decisions. However, the potential for misuse is great. The key is always to regard this information as an aid to judgment, not a substitute for it.

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