The impact of metrics, CARIN annual survey – Research Month Blog 2023

9 February 2023

Blog by Professor Jane Coad, Chair of CARIN, Professor Mary Wells Metrics and Impact Lead for CARIN, and Robyn Cooke

As part of its work to support and improve clinical academic careers for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, the Council hosts CARIN (Clinical Academic Roles and Career Pathways Implementation Network). CARIN was established to advise, support and share innovation and best practice of activity that promotes, engages and evaluates the development and implementation of joint clinical academic roles for healthcare professionals.

CARIN has undertaken a survey annually for the last three years. The purpose of the survey is to gather metrics on clinical academic activity in healthcare professions (nursing, midwifery, allied health professions, healthcare science, pharmacy and psychology) across UK NHS CARIN member organisations. It is intended for mapping clinical academic activity within NHS health care organisations including research environments, outputs and impact. However, collecting this data can have greater impact in terms of external influencing and sharing good practice.

The latest survey data relates to the calendar year 2021. The key headlines were:

  • 37 organisational responses from across the UK which included acute/specialist Trusts, Community Trusts, Mental Health trusts and Integrated Care organisations.
  • 3 out of the 37 organisations did not have a research strategy for NMAHPPS or with a NMAHPP component. The other respondents either has a strategy or one was under development.
  • 28 out of the 37 organisations had a clinical academic NMAHPP representative at their highest level research committee.
  • The majority of NHS organisations who responded link with universities through: joint research capacity development, joint training and supervision and joint funding.
  • Respondents noted positive and negative impacts of Covid-19. Positives included: NMAHPP role in research was highlighted, raised profile of research, increased research engagement within trusts, highlighted inequalities in health, more BAME staff interested in research and fellowship positions. Barriers included: redeployment of staff, clinical academic activities reduced, non-UPH studies suspended, delays in R & D processes, fewer NMAHPPs seeking fellowships/grants due to exhaustion and increased demands.
  • Majority of leadership roles were across all NMAHPP professions with relatively few focused solely on nursing and midwifery.  19% of organisations who responded did not have a substantive clinical academic NMAHPP lead.
  • Over half of respondents had local or regional schemes available that included internships, pre-doctoral, doctoral and postdoctoral. A third of respondents had MRes schemes available.
  • Over half of respondents had jointly funded (NHS/HEI) clinical academic posts. These ranged from some having just one and some organisations having up to 11. These were of a mix of professions.
  • Very few respondents routinely collected data on research impact, approximately 15% collect data on grants/fellowships, and approximately 45% collect data on outputs (such as publications).

Whilst the survey is a small sample, it arguably reflects key challenges for clinical academic careers across the UK. There may have been progress in recent years in the number of research strategies or organisational commitments to research, however there is varied success in how these are operationalised and implemented. This may be because of factors such as: clinical workload being prioritised, lack of clarity of research roles in job descriptions/person specifications, training, staff shortages preventing backfill and varying success in investing in clinical academic posts.

There are also infrastructure and funding challenges such as a lack of nationally funded clinical academic career structures (particularly post-doctoral), mobility issues across organisations such as NHS posts and Higher Education Institutions, lack of protected research time and limited capacity and models of mentorship.

For greater research impact, the clinical academic workforce needs to be supported and capacity increased. CARIN members will continue to be the voice of this workforce, aiming to influence across a range of sectors to have greater impact.

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