Is my research experience less valuable?

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E0001234

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For nearly four years, I’ve been working on a qualitative study of dementia care—there’s no experiment involved here, we’ve simply interviewed stakeholders (patients, staff, physicians, etc.) to answer research questions. I’ve done literature reviews to inform our research questions, have reviewed medical records to identify eligible participants, have done tons of thorough qualitative analysis of interviews, and have collaborated on a few abstracts/will be submitting a first-author paper soon. About 1000 hours.

Will some schools consider this less valuable than basic science research because there’s not really hypothesis-testing happening? Sort of worried because this is my only significant research experience.

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Most, if not all, schools will be fine with this. Most research done by physicians is clinical research, not bench research
 
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There is hypothesis testing involved. Clinical hypotheses. These are just as valid as bench-type hypotheses. No one will look down upon this type of research.
 
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For nearly four years, I’ve been working on a qualitative study of dementia care—there’s no experiment involved here, we’ve simply interviewed stakeholders (patients, staff, physicians, etc.) to answer research questions. I’ve done literature reviews to inform our research questions, have reviewed medical records to identify eligible participants, have done tons of thorough qualitative analysis of interviews, and have collaborated on a few abstracts/will be submitting a first-author paper soon. About 1000 hours.

Will some schools consider this less valuable than basic science research because there’s not really hypothesis-testing happening? Sort of worried because this is my only significant research experience.
I agree with others that this experience will be very helpful for your application. Many of the skills you've gained (including manuscript writing) will be highly transferable to other types of research. Most adcom members will be perfectly fine with this and see it positively.

One caveat is that in academia, some people see basic science research and clinical trials as being more "valuable" than other types of research (retrospective clinical research, education-related research, and qualitative studies like yours). I'm on an academic promotion track, and it has been an uphill battle to get some people to recognize the value of these other types of research. These people tend to look down on everyone else though and are in the minority. So when it comes to medical school acceptance (which is determined by a committee rather than select individuals), I don't see it hurting you. But there is a bias for some research snobs. Just my thoughts.
 
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For nearly four years, I’ve been working on a qualitative study of dementia care—there’s no experiment involved here, we’ve simply interviewed stakeholders (patients, staff, physicians, etc.) to answer research questions. I’ve done literature reviews to inform our research questions, have reviewed medical records to identify eligible participants, have done tons of thorough qualitative analysis of interviews, and have collaborated on a few abstracts/will be submitting a first-author paper soon. About 1000 hours.

Will some schools consider this less valuable than basic science research because there’s not really hypothesis-testing happening? Sort of worried because this is my only significant research experience.
This is fine!!!
 
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@Moko @LizzyM @LunaOri thank you for your replies! I noticed that each of you sort of gave a qualified answer (“Most schools”, “caveat”)—do you know of any particular schools that prefer basic science research over clinical? I’m assuming maybe T20s, which sort of sucks because I really like the curricula/opportunities at a few top schools.
 
Please take the following observation with an appropriate grain of cynical salt:
The value of one's research is often measured by the amount of committed funding and/or the overhead required by the institution.

The reason why bench research may be considered more valuable is that more money is usually involved, and money counts towards "rankings" and "prestige."
Systematic reviews don't usually involve that much money, but someone can prove me wrong on that.
There's a reason why there is a lot of investment in clinical research, especially by pharma or your IP office.
Why would certain schools prefer basic research over clinical? Answer: infrastructure, which has nothing to do with your medical education except for the faculty that need to teach the med school curriculum. Frankly, I think some schools' research infrastructure may favor clinical/community research over bench, but they won't likely be your T20's.

You are fine with what you are doing. Good luck with publishing!
 
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One caveat is that in academia, some people see basic science research and clinical trials as being more "valuable" than other types of research (retrospective clinical research, education-related research, and qualitative studies like yours). I'm on an academic promotion track, and it has been an uphill battle to get some people to recognize the value of these other types of research.
Not relevant to OP’s question, but this really surprises (and kind of disappoints) me. Particularly regarding retrospective clinical or education research. I always found them completely undervalued, especially because of how little funding they require. I never considered what @Mr.Smile12 said, in that less funding may actually go against those types of research because some can equate investment to value (and you can’t “brag” about how much money the NIH gave you).

Especially upsetting because I get really excited about retrospective stuff and even mentioned it constantly in my application.
 
Please take the following observation with an appropriate grain of cynical salt:
The value of one's research is often measured by the amount of committed funding and/or the overhead required by the institution.

The reason why bench research may be considered more valuable is that more money is usually involved, and money counts towards "rankings" and "prestige."
Systematic reviews don't usually involve that much money, but someone can prove me wrong on that.
There's a reason why there is a lot of investment in clinical research, especially by pharma or your IP office.
Why would certain schools prefer basic research over clinical? Answer: infrastructure, which has nothing to do with your medical education except for the faculty that need to teach the med school curriculum. Frankly, I think some schools' research infrastructure may favor clinical/community research over bench, but they won't likely be your T20's.

You are fine with what you are doing. Good luck with publishing!
I'm a bit confused by what that last sentence means: do you mean that I'll be at a disadvantage for T20s since I don't have significant bench research?
 
I'm a bit confused by what that last sentence means: do you mean that I'll be at a disadvantage for T20s since I don't have significant bench research?
That's not what I meant, though many believe it to be true since T20s generally have a lot of NIH funding to support bench research. If you wanted to do research, there should be administrative support for students to do research on-campus or away. Most top schools should support community or "dry lab" research too.
 
There is hypothesis testing involved. Clinical hypotheses. These are just as valid as bench-type hypotheses. No one will look down upon this type of research.
@LizzyM do you agree with this? I took a look at some past threads where you've spoken about qualitative research, and it sort of confirmed my fear that this kind of research isn't taken very seriously due to the fact that there's technically no formal hypotheses involved. I was hoping that my research would get me some attention at medical schools, but I'm starting to panic a little bit considering that my experience might not satisfy expectations for "research". Should I apply to med schools as if I don't have any research experience, with the expectation that schools will consider my research just another extracurricular activity?
 
I would never say "no one" because there will always be basic scientist on the committee with a stick up their a55. That said, if you can state a purpose to the research such as "exploring barriers" "describing perceived locus of control" "identifying common themes within...." you might have more of a case for the purpose of this research.... part of the hesitancy can be lack of familiarity and the fact that faculty have not seen qualitative research used in their clinical settings.
 
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I would never say "no one" because there will always be basic scientist on the committee with a stick up their a55. That said, if you can state a purpose to the research such as "exploring barriers" "describing perceived locus of control" "identifying common themes within...." you might have more of a case for the purpose of this research.... part of the hesitancy can be lack of familiarity and the fact that faculty have not seen qualitative research used in their clinical settings.
For sure—in the research I worked on, we were eliciting perspectives to identify barriers to/facilitators of dementia care in the context of primary care with the ultimate aim of suggesting quality-improvement interventions. I can speak at length (enthusiastically) about the project, but I’m not sure that that matters if interviewers decide that it’s not worth asking about
 
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