Context: Methodological shortcomings in medical education research are often attributed to insufficient funding, yet an association between funding and study quality has not been established.
Objectives: To develop and evaluate an instrument for measuring the quality of education research studies and to assess the relationship between funding and study quality.
Design, setting, and participants: Internal consistency, interrater and intrarater reliability, and criterion validity were determined for a 10-item medical education research study quality instrument (MERSQI). This was applied to 210 medical education research studies published in 13 peer-reviewed journals between September 1, 2002, and December 31, 2003. The amount of funding obtained per study and the publication record of the first author were determined by survey.
Main outcome measures: Study quality as measured by the MERSQI (potential maximum total score, 18; maximum domain score, 3), amount of funding per study, and previous publications by the first author.
Results: The mean MERSQI score was 9.95 (SD, 2.34; range, 5-16). Mean domain scores were highest for data analysis (2.58) and lowest for validity (0.69). Intraclass correlation coefficient ranges for interrater and intrarater reliability were 0.72 to 0.98 and 0.78 to 0.998, respectively. Total MERSQI scores were associated with expert quality ratings (Spearman rho, 0.73; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.56-0.84; P < .001), 3-year citation rate (0.8 increase in score per 10 citations; 95% CI, 0.03-1.30; P = .003), and journal impact factor (1.0 increase in score per 6-unit increase in impact factor; 95% CI, 0.34-1.56; P = .003). In multivariate analysis, MERSQI scores were independently associated with study funding of $20 000 or more (0.95 increase in score; 95% CI, 0.22-1.86; P = .045) and previous medical education publications by the first author (1.07 increase in score per 20 publications; 95% CI, 0.15-2.23; P = .047).
Conclusion: The quality of published medical education research is associated with study funding.