Medical education research and medical education practice both involve being methodical, innovative, self-observing, forward-looking, and open to peer review, and both are scholarly activities. For these reasons, distinguishing between these two activities is often difficult. There are three important reasons to clarify the distinctions: the moral difference between education research and education practice; federal regulations governing education research that require more safeguards than often exist in education practice; and the fact that student participants in research have characteristics in common with members of special populations. The authors explain why attention to issues of safeguards in education research and practice is likely to grow at academic health centers, yet maintain that these issues are neglected in the medical education literature. They demonstrate this with findings from their review of 424 education research reports published in 1988 and 1989 and in 1998 and 1999 in two major medical education journals. Each article was evaluated for documentation of six ethically important safeguards and features (e.g., informed consent). The rates of reporting the six features and safeguards were relatively low (3-27%). Nearly half (47%) of the empirical reports offered no indication of ethically important safeguards or features, and no article mentioned all six. Furthermore, those rates did not increase substantially after ten years. The authors discuss a number of implications of their findings for faculty, training institutions, students, and editors and peer reviewers, and conclude with the hope that their findings will raise awareness of these neglected issues in medical education and will stimulate all those involved to reflect upon the issues and set standards on the ethical aspects of research and scholarly practice.
View details for Web of Science ID 000170972300006
View details for PubMedID 11553501