Factors influencing attrition from a researcher training program

David Schmidt, Keira Robinson, Emma Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explored attrition from a novice health researcher training program. The aim of this paper was to identify factors contributing to attrition from the RRCBP that if understood could decrease attrition from this standalone researcher training program.

Using a capacity building framework, this case-control study compared demographic characteristics and features of 30 withdrawn research trainees to 68 graduated trainees from the Rural Research Capacity Building Program, run by the Health Education and Training Institute of New South Wales, Australia between 2006 and 2010. Data were analysed using Exact Logistic Regression, Chi-square and Fisher's Exact tests.

An attrition rate of 29 per cent was associated with a range of individual, organisational and supra-organisational factors. Withdrawals occurred prior to ethics submission (n=13, 43 per cent), after unsuccessful ethics submission (n=8, 27 per cent), or after receiving ethics approval (n=9, 30 per cent). Clinicians were less likely to withdraw than non-clinical staff (p=0.03). Profession, project ownership, funding sources and type of research were not significant factors in attrition, while the effect of location was mixed indicating a potential impact of peer support networks in areas with high numbers of trainees.

Practical implications
This research demonstrates attrition from a research training program is associated with trainees receiving appropriate and timely support. In the formative stages researchers require support, particularly those working in professional or geographical isolation.

This study is the first of its kind in examining in detail reasons for withdrawal from a standalone research training program and will allow coordinators of similar programs to target support to vulnerable research trainees at critical time points
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-67
JournalInternational Journal for Researcher Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2014
Externally publishedYes


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