Medical Educators' Perceptions of Research Culture in a Faculty of Health Sciences: A South African Study

Anthonio Oladele Adefuye*, Lauren Coetzee, Corlia Janse van Vuuren, Jamiu O. Busari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Phenomenon: In South Africa, as with many other developing countries, a call has been made for institutions of higher learning to participate in more research and set the pace for societal transformation. At the Faculty of Health Sciences (FoHS), University of the Free State (UFS), numerous strategic efforts are focused on supporting and stimulating research. An essential prerequisite for the success of these vital efforts is to be aware of the research culture within the academic faculties. A peculiarity of medical colleges in South Africa is that medical faculties are in partnership with the government through the academic training hospitals; hence, staff appointment occurs through a joint structure with both the provincial Department of Health and the National Health Laboratory Services. So far, no known study has investigated research culture in this context (joint staff appointment). Approach: This study included elements of case study evaluation and improvement-oriented evaluation. We distributed to 242 educators a structured questionnaire to obtain perceptions of aspects of research, research processes, and existing research culture in the FoHS, UFS. Suggestions on how to improve the research culture also were obtained. The structured questionnaire was self-administered, consisted of closed and open-ended questions grouped into five main sections, and was distributed electronically and manually (hard copy) to participants. Findings: One-hundred-eleven questionnaires were returned (46% response rate). Motivation to do research varied by school and included career advancement (77%, School of Allied Health Professions); change the situation (80%, Academic support); develop individual skillset (67%, School of Nursing) and improve patient care (62%, School of Medicine). Perceived factors affecting research culture included limited funding and allocated time for research, minimal leadership support for research, and absence of research-related support structures as well as minimal teamwork/collaboration. Frustration was the most reported (negative) emotion (25%). Participants suggested that encouraging teamwork among staff, reducing workload to allow time for research, establishing a mentorship program, providing training on deficient skills, and more support from leadership would improve research culture. Insights: This present study reveals some of the factors that impact negatively on research, research culture, and productivity in a medical college in a resource-limited setting. While the benefits of joint staff appointment cannot be overemphasized, our findings highlight that the complex interplay between employers/stakeholders result in poorly executed joint appointment scheme/models (i.e., competitive approach) and creates numerous challenges that negatively impact research productivity and research culture. Recommendations suggested herein can be implemented by the FoHS and other medical colleges in similar contexts to improve research productivity and foster an enabling research culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-524
Number of pages16
JournalTeaching and Learning in Medicine
Issue number5
Early online date17 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2021


  • Research culture
  • research
  • faculty of health sciences
  • University of the Free State


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