Background: A survey was conducted to describe the benefits of and challenges to practitioner participation in the Practitioners Engaged in Applied Research and Learning (PEARL) Network, a dental practice-based research network (PBRN). The results were compared with results from medical PBRNs across different tiers of participation (based on practitioner-investigators previous involvement with PEARL research protocols).
Methods: A 39-item web-based survey addressed the benefits of PBRN participation on three levels: individual/practitioner, practice (office), and community/professional. Participants were also asked to rate challenges to participation.
Results: A total of 153 of 216 PEARL practitioner-investigators participated, a response rate of 71%. The majority (70%) was male, with a median of 23 years in private practice. 'Means to stay informed of new developments in my profession' was considered a 'very important' benefit for nearly three-quarters of the sample (71%). 'Opportunity to improve clinical procedures' was considered as 'very important' by 73% of respondents. In terms of benefits related to the community and profession, 65% of respondents reported 'means to directly contribute to the evidence base of dental practice' as being 'very important'. 'Disruption in practice routine/clinical practice' was considered the most important challenge to participation.
Conclusions: The benefits of and challenges to participation identified did not differ across tiers of participation and were similar to benefits identified by participants in medical PBRNs. The results of this study will help facilitate the design of future PBRN protocols to encourage greater participation by the profession. Results suggest that practitioners with similar interests could be recruited to collaborative studies between medicine and dentistry.