Predictors of research productivity among physical therapy programs in the United States: an observational study

BMC Med Educ. 2020 Jul 11;20(1):216. doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02133-1.


Background: This study targeted the association of program characteristics of 203 Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs in the United States (US) reported by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) in their 2017 Annual Accreditation Report (AAR) with measures of core faculty research volume. The association of institutional, program, and faculty characteristics of an institution with core faculty research volume was investigated.

Methods: This observational study analyzed data provided in the AAR about program research volume. Predictor variables included institutional, program and faculty characteristics. Research volume was measured as a ratio of 1) number of peer-reviewed publications, 2) National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, and 3) faculty with grants, per number of core faculty. Research volume was stratified by quartiles and analyzed using logistic regression analyses. The highest 25% were analyzed against the lowest 75%.

Results: In the multivariate logistic regression analyses, research Carnegie classification was positively associated with NIH funding (OR = 4.04; 95% CI = 1.92, 8.48) and number of peer reviewed publications (OR = 7.63; 95% CI = 3.39, 17.14). Square footage of research space was positively associated with number of peer reviewed publications (OR = 4.58; 95% CI = 2.08, 10.11). Private status was negatively associated with NIH funding (OR = 0.37; 95% CI = 0.17, 0.83) and faculty holding grants (OR = 0.38; 95% CI = 0.19, 0.76).

Conclusions: There is strong evidence that research culture (e.g., research Carnegie status and dedicated research space) is related to research productivity in DPT programs in the US. Private status was indicative of a non-research intensive environment, which may be reflective of a current trend of small, non-research based private institutions initiating DPT programs.

Keywords: Accreditation; Education, medical; Logistic models; Physical therapists; Research.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation / trends*
  • Humans
  • Peer Review, Research / trends*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / education*
  • United States