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OBJECTIVE: Clinician-scientists are critical to medical innovation and research. However, the number of clinician scientists in the UK has been declining steadily over the last decade. One of the cited reasons is poor student recruitment to academic training pathways. The SMART study aims to assess current student perceptions on research and identify key factors influencing whether a student is interested in research. DESIGN: We conducted a cross-sectional survey study between January and May 2022. SETTING: This was a multi-centre national study with data collected across 40 universities offering medical courses in the UK. PARTICIPANTS: Participants were UK medical students enrolled in medicine for 21/22 academic year. MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURE: The main outcomes were related to participant perceptions on research and whether they were interested in engaging with research in their future career. These measures were correlated with demographic and non-demographic details using regression analyses. RESULTS: One thousand seven hundred seventy-four individuals participated in the SMART survey from 40 medical schools. Nearly half the participants felt there were barriers preventing them from doing research (46.67%) and almost three-quarters felt it was at least somewhat difficult to combine research with medical school (73.49%). Of the options available, most commonly students did not want to pursue an academic career (43.11%) or training pathway (42.49%). However, most participants felt it was useful to do research at medical school (59.54%) and were also interested in doing more research in the future (69.16%). Regression analysis identified many factors influencing student's perceptions of research including year of study, gender, socioeconomic status, family background, research exposure at medical school, ethnicity, and country of pre-university education. CONCLUSIONS: The SMART study is the first of its kind in the UK, shedding light on medical student perceptions. While some express strong interest in academic careers, a larger proportion show a broader interest in research. Demographic factors like gender, parental occupation, and socioeconomic status play a role. Further exploration is needed for specific groups to address barriers, promote research, and boost academic pathway recruitment.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Med Educ

Publication Date





Career progression, Clinical academia, Collaborative study, Medical students, Humans, Students, Medical, Cross-Sectional Studies, Prospective Studies, Career Choice, Schools, Medical, United Kingdom