Medical researchers evaluate their methodological skills

J Clin Epidemiol. 2004 Dec;57(12):1323-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2004.03.014.


Background and objective: Clinical epidemiology and statistics skills of clinical researchers are often limited. We assessed methodological skills of medical researchers and identified factors associated with higher skill levels.

Methods: In a cross-sectional mail survey at two Swiss teaching hospitals, participants (N=409) rated their ability to perform 26 research-related activities, such as identifying the research question, selecting a study design, computing the required sample size, performing data analysis, and reporting results.

Results: The proportion of respondents who were able to perform a specific activity was 33.2% on average, ranging from 1.5% for "numerical statistics (bootstrap, simulation, cross-validation,...)" to 76.0% for "oral presentation of results." The overall skill level (expressed as a percentage of the 26 activities) was associated with principal investigator experience (+8.7%), greater percentage of time devoted to research (+12.4% for near full-time versus no time commitment), years of research experience (+17.6% for 15-40 years versus 0 years), past number of clinical research projects (+18.0% for 15-230 projects versus 0-1 projects), and hours of formal methodological training (+32.6% for 200-1200 hours versus 0-9 hours).

Conclusion: Self-reported methodological skills were generally modest. The most important covariates of skill levels were current time commitment to research, past experience, and formal training.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional Competence*
  • Research Personnel*
  • Self-Assessment