[Excerpt] No national mechanism is in place for an informed, penetrating, and systematic assessment of the physician workforce such as that achieved by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the periodic evaluation of the nation’s scientists and engineers. Likewise, knowledge of the workforce for clinical research is enigmatic and fragmentary despite the serial recommendations of “blue-ribbon” panels to establish a protocol for the recurrent assessment of clinical investigators early in their careers. Failure to adopt a national system for producing timely, high-quality data on the professional activities of physicians limits the application of improvement tools for advancing clinical investigation and ultimately improving clinical practice.
The present study was designed as a pilot project to test the feasibility of using Web-based surveys to estimate the administrative, clinical, didactic, and research work of subspecialty physicians employed in academic, clinical, federal, and pharmaceutical workplaces. Physician members of The Endocrine Society (TES) were used as surrogate prototypes of a subspecialty workforce because of their manageable number and investigative tradition. The results establish that Web-based surveys provide a tool to assess the activities of a decentralized workforce employed in disparate workplaces and underscore the value of focusing on physician work within the context of particular workplaces within a subspecialty. Our report also provides a new and timely snapshot of the amount and types of research performed by clinically trained endocrinologists and offers an evidenced-based framework for improving the investigative workforce in this medical subspecialty.