Open Access Debate

How to set up and manage a trainee-led research collaborative

George Dowswell1*, David C Bartlett2, Kaori Futaba2, Lisa Whisker2, Thomas D Pinkney2 and on behalf of West Midlands Research Collaborative (WMRC), Birmingham, UK

Author Affiliations

1 Primary Care Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

2 West Midlands Research Collaborative (WMRC), Birmingham, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:94  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-94

Published: 14 May 2014



Ensuring that doctors in training acquire sufficient knowledge, experience and understanding of medical research is a universal and longstanding issue which has been brought into sharper focus by the growth of evidence based medicine. All healthcare systems preparing doctors in training for practice have to balance the acquisition of specific clinical attitudes, knowledge and skills with the wider need to ensure doctors are equipped to remain professionally competent as medical science advances. Most professional medical bodies acknowledge that this requires trainee doctors to experience some form of research education, not only in order to carry out original research, but to acquire sufficient academic skills to become accomplished research consumers in order to remain informed throughout their professional practice. There are many barriers to accomplishing this ambitious aim.


This article briefly explains why research collaboratives are necessary, describes how to establish a collaborative, and recommends how to run one. It is based on the experiences of the pioneering West Midlands Research Collaborative and draws on the wider literature about the organisation and delivery of high quality research projects. Practical examples of collaborative projects are given to illustrate the potential of this form of research organisation.


The new trainee-led research collaboratives provide a supportive framework for planning, ownership and delivery of high quality multicentre research. This ensures clinical relevance, increases the chances of research findings being translated into changes in practice and should lead to improved patient outcomes. Research collaboratives also enhance the research skills and extend the scientific horizons of doctors in training.