Introduction This study is part of a larger programme exploring current challenges to and facilitators of occupational epidemiology (OE) research in the UK. The programme was motivated by the current UK-based regulatory and ethical frameworks, which have impeded research of clear public value, despite being designed to provide public protection. In a previous phase, key UK-based OE researchers were interviewed to explore their experiences/perceptions of these issues. This study aimed to explore whether the broader OE stakeholders’ views/experiences are similar to those of the key-researchers, and whether they report experiencing other challenges/facilitators.
Methods A questionnaire was developed based on themes identified in the interview phase, and the literature. A convenience sample of stakeholders, comprising mostly researchers, was identified from the delegate list of “International Conference on Epidemiology in Occupational Health” (Oxford-UK, 2011) followed by snowball sampling.
Results The response rate was 37.5% (54/144). The top challenges identified were: low response rate (86.8%); inaccessibility (79.7%), inaccuracy and incompleteness (68.0%) of workers’ records; lack of funding (73.1%); and difficulties accessing data/participants due to ethical and governance regulations (67.3%). Top facilitators were: government interest and support (87.0%); pre-study negotiations, with relevant stakeholders, for approval (85.1%). These findings support key-researchers’ views although the emphasis varied slightly.
Conclusions Practical challenges were highly ranked by the respondents, whereas key-researchers had placed greater emphasis on the lack of resources. This is, perhaps, because key-researchers deal mostly with setting-up and funding aspects of studies; other members are mainly involved in the operational aspects of studies. Especially noteworthy is that OE community is currently small and scattered in the UK; key-researchers are retiring and junior ones are difficult to recruit. There is a need for a national professional body/society in this field to promote communication, offer opportunities for networking and research and lobby for its interests.
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