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Pfeiffer, Mona; Fischer, Martin R.; Bauer, Daniel (2016): Publication activities of German junior researchers in academic medicine: which factors impact impact factors? In: BMC Medical Education 16:190


Background: Previous studies have shown medical students in Germany to have little interest in research while at the same time there is a lack of physician scientists. This study's aim is to investigate factors influencing publication productivity of physicians during and after finishing their medical doctorate. Methods: We conducted a PubMed search for physicians having received their doctoral degree at Ludwig-Maxmilians-University Munich Faculty of Medicine between 2011 and 2013 (N = 924) and identified the appropriate impact factor (IF) for each journal the participants had published in. Gender, age, final grade of the doctorate, participation in a structured doctoral study program and joint publication activities between graduate and academic supervisor were defined as factors. For analyses we used nonparametric procedures. Results: Men show significantly more publications than women. Before their doctoral graduation men publish 1.98 (SD +/- 3.64) articles on average, women 1.15 (+/- 2.67) (p < 0.0001, d = 0.27). After completion of the doctorate (up to 06/2015), 40 % of men still publish, while only 24.3 % of women (p < 0.0001, phi = 0.17) continue to publish. No differences were found concerning the value of IFs. Similar results were found regarding the variable 'participation in a structured doctoral study program'. Until doctoral graduation, program participants publish 2.82 (+/- 5.41) articles, whereas participants doing their doctorate individually only publish 1.39 (+/- 2.87) articles (p < 0.0001, d = 0.46). These differences persist in publication activities after graduation (45.5 vs. 29.7 %, p = 0.008, f = 0.09). A structured doctorate seems to have positive influence on IFs (4.33 +/- 2.91 vs. 3.37 +/- 2.82, p = 0.006, d = 0.34). Further significant results concern the variables 'final grade' and 'age': An early doctoral graduation and an excellent or very good grade for the doctoral thesis positively influence publication productivity. Finally, joint publication activities between the graduate and his/her academic supervisor result in significantly higher IFs (3.64 +/- 3.03 vs. 2.84 +/- 2.25, p = 0.007, d = 0.28). Conclusions: The study's results support the assumption about women's underrepresentation in science as well as the relevance of structured doctoral study programs for preparing and recruiting young academics in medicine for scientific careers. Promoting women and further development of structured doctoral study programs are highly recommended.