Low immediate scientific yield of the PhD among medical doctors

Emil L. Fosbøl, Philip L. Fosbøl, Sofie Rerup, Lauge Østergaard, Mohammed H. Ahmed, Jawad Butt, Julie Davidsen, Nirusiya Shanmuganathan, Simon Juul, Christian Lewinter*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: We studied the scientific yield of the medical PhD program at all Danish Universities. Methods: We undertook a retrospective observational study. Three PhD schools in Denmark were included in order to evaluate the postdoctoral research production over more than 18 years through individual publications accessed by PubMed. Results: A total of 2686 PhD-graduates (1995-2013) with a medical background were included according to registries from all PhD schools in Denmark. They had a median age of 35 years (interquartile range (IQR), 32-38) and 53 % were women at the time of graduation. Scientific activity over time was assessed independently of author-rank and inactivity was measured relative to the date of graduation. Factors associated with inactivity were identified using multivariable logistic regression. 88.6 % of the PhD theses were conducted in internal medicine vs. 11.4 % in surgery. During follow-up (median 6.9 years, IQR 3.0-11.7), PubMed data searches identified that 87 (3.4 %) of the PhD graduates had no publication after they graduated from the PhD program, 40 % had 5 or less, and 90 % had 30 or less. The median number of publications per year after PhD graduation was 1.12 (IQR 0.61-1.99) papers per year. About 2/3 of the graduates became inactive after 1 year and approximately 21 % of the graduates remained active during the whole follow-up. Female gender was associated with inactivity: adjusted odds ratio 1.59 (95 % confidence interval 1.24-2.05). Conclusions: The scientific production of Danish medic PhD-graduates was mainly produced around the time of PhD-graduation. After obtaining the PhD-degree the scientific production declines suggesting that scientific advance fails and resources are not harnessed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number189
JournalBMC Medical Education
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 24. Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Fosbøl et al.


  • Danish PhD schools
  • Medical degree
  • Medicine
  • Observational study
  • Peer-reviewed publications
  • PhD
  • Surgery


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