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No good deed goes unpublished: what is the ‘point’ of undergraduate research?
  1. Katherine Roxanne Rahnejat1,
  2. Esther Dami Okhiria1,
  3. David William Webster2
  1. 1 Medicine, The University of Sheffield Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2 Critical Care, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Katherine Roxanne Rahnejat, Biomedical Science BSc, School of Medicine, University of Sheffield, Beech Hill Road, Sheffield, UK; krahnejat1{at}

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Doctors are expected to use evidence-based medicine to guide their practice.1 Since medical students are tomorrow’s doctors, the General Medical Council has issued a framework highlighting the value of transferable research skills for graduates.1 Undergraduate participation in research enables future clinicians to critically appraise literature and make evidence accessible to patients.1

The United Kingdom Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO) implements a point-system to award foundation posts to graduating medical students.2 Hospitals are grouped into deaneries, while students are organised into deciles within their cohort.2 Posts are allocated systematically, with top-scoring applicants receiving their preferential choice.2 The scoring system (see figure 1) weights situational judgement test (SJT) and educational performance measure (EPM) equally.2 The latter comprises undergraduate examination deciles and educational achievements (additional degrees and publications).2 By crediting accomplishments beyond the standard medical programme, undergraduates are encouraged to diversify their studies with research and intercalated degrees. UKFPO credits research experience by quantifying achievements when assigning posts.2 With two points available for publications, the drive to publish to improve job prospects may exceed the desire to meaningfully contribute to research.3

Figure 1

The UKFPO scoring system. Maximum points indicated in brackets. EPM, educational performance measure; SJT, situational judgement test; UKFPO, United Kingdom Foundation Programme Office.

Acquiring jobs post graduation is competitive.2 There is pressure on undergraduates to publish for the ‘wrong reasons’.3 4 Students report feeling that publications should not contribute towards job applications.3 Point allocation does not differentiate between authorship, evidence quality or journal impact factor; the article must simply be PubMed Indexed (PMID).2 Assigning numerical value to publications incentivises undergraduates to participate in research as a ‘tick box’ exercise to enhance portfolios.3 To gain points, it is …

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  • Collaborators Rory B G O’Sullivan, Medical Genetics BSc, MBChB, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Glossop Road, Sheffield, United Kingdom, S10 2J.

  • Contributors KR and EO were involved in idea conception, writing and revising the final manuscript. DW created all visuals and made significant contributions to the final manuscript. All authors are responsible and accountable for the research.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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