Background: An observed decrease of physician scientists in medical practice has generated much recent interest in increasing the exposure of research programs in medical school. The aim of this study was to review the experience and attitudes regarding research by medical students in Canada.
Methods: An anonymous, cross-sectional, self-report questionnaire was administered to second and fourth year students in three medical schools in Ontario between February and May of 2005. Questions were primarily closed-ended and consisted of Likert scales. Descriptive and correlative statistics were used to analyze the responses between students of different years and previous research experience.
Results: There was a 47% (327/699) overall response rate to the questionnaire. Despite 87% of respondents reporting that they had been involved in some degree of research prior to medical school, 43% report that they have not been significantly involved in research activity during medical school and 24% had no interest in any participation. There were significant differences in the attitudes towards research endeavors during medical school between students in their fourth year compared to second year. The greatest barriers to involvement in research in medical school appear to be time, availability of research mentors, formal teaching of research methodology and the perception that the student would not receive appropriate acknowledgement for work put towards a research project.
Conclusion: The results of this self-report survey outline the significant differences in attitudes towards mandatory research as a component of critical inquiry and scholarship in the undergraduate curriculum in Ontario medical schools.