Objectives: To compare the productivity of Australian general practice in terms of research publications with the productivity of other medical disciplines.
Design: A survey of Australian general practice, medicine, surgery and public health publications carried out by manual searching of specific journals and an electronic search of the US National Library of Medicine's "PubMed" database.
Main outcome measures: The number of original research publications by Australian general practitioners, physicians, surgeons and public health physicians during 1999; the relative publication rate of Australian general practice, medicine, surgery and public health over the period 1990-1999.
Results: Of original research articles published in 1999, GPs authored 65% (17/26) in Australian Family Physician and 3% (3/90) in the Medical Journal of Australia; physicians published 4% and 37%, respectively. The electronic search identified 54 research articles relating to Australian general practice published in 1999 in 21 different journals, only two of which were primary care journals. Over the period 1990-1999, there was a publication rate of one general practice [discipline] article per 1000 GPs in practice per year. Corresponding rates for medicine, surgery and public health were 105/1000, 61/1000 and 148/1000, respectively.
Conclusions: There is considerable disparity between the level of research output of general practice and that of the disciplines of medicine, surgery and public health. If we are to have effective general practice research, we urgently need to develop research skills, a supportive infrastructure and a culture that nurtures research.