Article Text


19 Challenges and facilitators of occupational epidemiology research in the UK: a survey of stakeholders’ perceptions
  1. S S Sweity1,
  2. Sutton2,
  3. Downe2,
  4. McElvenny3
  1. 1University of Central Lancashire, Preston, United Kingdom
  2. 2UCLan, Preston, United Kingdom
  3. 3Statistics and Health Limited, Manchester, United Kingdom


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.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.