Disrupting the Status Quo: Redesigning Academic Incentives to Prioritize Social Impact in Health Services Research
To help disrupt the status quo within health services research, this brief includes actions for individual researchers, university leaders, public and private funders, accreditation entities, journals, and professional associations, including AcademyHealth.
In health services research (HSR), academic incentives are increasingly misaligned with the goal of the fostering of scholarship that improves people’s lives. Rethinking these incentives to realize greater social impact is one key focus of AcademyHealth’s Paradigm Project—a major initiative supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to increase the relevance, timeliness, quality, and impact of the field through innovation. As part of the Paradigm Project, AcademyHealth convened a May 2021 meeting to explore how innovative academic incentives and rewards might empower the HSR field to produce research that both illuminates real-world problems and delivers solutions.
A new report summarizes takeaways from that meeting in which participants critically examined the current system of academic incentives and rewards, explored the role of diversity, equity and inclusion in that system, and articulated options for better aligning research incentives with health outcomes. Issues addressed in the report include:
- Peer review;
- Federal research funding;
- Academic recruitment, promotion, and tenure policies;
- Inequitable access to research funding and tenure, especially for younger, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), and/or women researchers;
- The need for more community-responsive research aimed at solving real-world problems;
- Assessment of research impact; and
- Leverage points in the research ecosystem—such as university accreditation and business models, as well as funder and journal policies.