Research and Theory for Nursing Practice: An International Journal, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2009
To Publish or Not: That Is Not the
Real Pilot Study Question?
n my academic position, I fulfill many roles, one of which is as a guide and
mentor to junior faculty, especially relating to advancing their research pro-
gram. This role is multifaceted, but often includes assisting my colleagues to
develop research ideas into fundable grant applications and to derive publishable
manuscripts from ongoing and completed research projects. Often at or near the
beginning of a research program, many of them are involved in pilot studies, either
seeking funding for them, carrying them out, making sense and use of their data,
or developing publications from them.
Fortunately, in today’s research environment, funding opportunities for pilot
studies are relatively plentiful. In most research intensive environments, multiple
sources for internal funding are available to junior investigators through their school,
college, or university, or funded centers of excellence. An array of external funding
sources can also be tapped. Professional societies, foundations, special-focused
organizations (e.g., the American Cancer Society), and the U.S. government are
among them. The National Institutes of Health have specific funding mechanisms,
such as the R03 and R21, directed toward supporting pilot or feasibility studies.
Consequently, many of the researchers that I work with have data from pilot stud-
ies that they are seeking to publish, but are sometimes unclear as to what of this
work is publishable.
In my editorial position, I am aware that questions surround publication of pilot
studies (Becker, 2008; Perry, 2001; Watson & Rose, 2007). The key controversy
centers on whether efficacy data obtained through pilot studies of interventions