Predictors of Research Productivity Among Physical Therapy Programs in the United States: An Observational Study
Purpose/Hypothesis: Scholarly activity is one metric to determine the qualitative strength and ranking of a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. Scholarly activity is a focus of both the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) in order to provide evidence-based care. Findings that elucidate relationships between program characteristics and magnitude of scholarly activity may be useful to guide DPT programs to align with the CAPTE criteria and the APTA’s vision. Number of Subjects: 203 DPT programs in the United States. Materials and Methods: This observational study analyzed data on 203 DPT programs provided by the CAPTE in their 2017 Annual Accreditation Report (AAR) using multivariate logistic regression analysis. Predictor variables included institutional, program, and faculty characteristics. Outcome measures were selected to represent research volume: number of peer reviewed publications, National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, and number of faculty members with grants, all standardized per core faculty member. Results: The results of this study show that there are characteristics that predict high research productivity in a DPT program related to research infrastructure. In the multivariate logistic regression analysis, research Carnegie classification, a tool to classify institutions by their scholarly activity, was positively associated with NIH funding (OR = 4.04; 95% CI = 1.92, 8.48) and number of peer reviewed publications (OR = 7.63; 95% CI = 3.39, 17.14). In addition, square footage of research space was positively associated with number of peer reviewed publications (OR = 4.58; 95% CI = 2.08, 10.11). More interestingly, this study shows that private status is predictive of low research productivity. The multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that private status was negatively associated with NIH funding (OR = 0.37; 95% CI = 0.17, 0.83) and faculty holding grants (OR = 0.38; 95% CI = 0.19, 0.76). Conclusions: There is strong evidence that research infrastructure is related to research productivity in DPT programs in the US. Private status was indicative of a non-research intensive environment, which may be reflective of a current trend of small, non-research based private institutions initiating DPT programs. Clinical Relevance: The APTA notes that scholarly activity is a key pillar of physical therapy in order to provide evidence-based care, which reduces unnecessary variability in and improves the quality of patient care. Building a strong research culture within the physical therapy profession can begin in DPT programs. The current trend of small, non-research based private institutions initiating DPT programs should be a topic of concern with regard to the future of evidence in the physical therapy profession.