Are Researcher Development Interventions, Alone or in Any Combination, Effective in Improving Researcher Behavior? A Systematic Review
Academic institutions funded by the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program of the National Institutes of Health were challenged recently by the Institute of Medicine to expand traditional mentoring of graduate and postdoctoral scholars to include training and continuing education for faculty, professional staff, and community partners. A systematic review was conducted to determine whether researcher development interventions, alone or in any combination, are effective in improving researcher behavior. PubMed, CINAHL, and Education Research Complete databases and select journals were searched for relevant articles published from January 2000 through October 2012. A total of 3,459 papers were identified, and 114 papers were retrieved for in-depth analysis. None included randomization. Twenty-two papers reported subjects with professional degrees, interventions, and outcomes. Interventions were meetings, outreach visits, colleague mediation, audit and feedback, and multifaceted interventions. Most studies reported multifaceted interventions (68.2%), often involving mentored learning experiences, and meetings. All studies reported a change in performance, including numbers of publications or grant applications. Nine studies reported changes in competence, including writing, presentation, or analytic skills, and performance in research practice (40.9%). Even as, the quality of evidence was weak to establish causal linkages between researcher development and improved researcher behavior, nearly all the projects (81.8%) received funding from governmental agencies, professional societies, or other organizations. Those who design researcher development activities and those who evaluate the programs are challenged to develop tools and conduct studies that measure the effectiveness, costs, and sustainability of researcher development in the CTSA Program.