For fellows with clinical backgrounds, the appropriate research goals are somewhat different. It normally takes a PhD trainee at least five years to gain the necessary theoretical and methodological skills required to be a competent researcher and then another 2 years of postdoctoral training to know how to apply those skills to health services research problems. Thus, one cannot expect a clinician to do all this in a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship. However, someone with a clinical background can learn how to become a collaborator with other formally trained health policy researchers. This requires both learning the basic terminology and methods and, more importantly, developing an appreciation of how people in a specific field (e.g., economics or sociology) address a problem, pose questions, and undertake the research. Although some of this knowledge can be acquired through introductory courses, one of the most effective methods is collaboration with skilled investigators on specific projects.
Although one can acquire specific research skills in various ways, ranging from course work to learning by doing, becoming an independent researcher is a process that requires active involvement of the fellow and the support of the faculty. The academic and policy researcher needs to understand a set of activities, including formulating problems, developing research proposals and writing grants, investigating specific research questions, interpreting findings, preparing papers for publication, understanding the publication review process, and presenting results at professional meetings. Although a fellow might be able to do all this in a 2-year period, it is not likely to happen without careful consideration of the fellow's roles in specific research projects. Given the time frames involved in grant writing and research, it is impossible for a fellow to follow a project from its inception to completion within a 2-year period. However, it is possible for the fellow to experience the various elements through involvement in multiple projects. The following is an example of this:
Upon arrival, the fellow identifies a preceptor with an ongoing research project that has the potential for some independent investigations. The fellow can then become a member of the project team and observe the principal investigator (PI) managing the main study, leading the analysis, and writing up the findings. The greatest problems faced by fellows often involve knowing how to write up results and deter-