US Clinical Investigator Experience

Published on: 

Applied Clinical Trials

This data analysis takes a look at how much experience US clinical investigators have.

The Open Payments database provides invaluable information about the US clinical investigator terrain. The US government, through the Sunshine Act, requires that all payments to physicians by the pharmaceutical and medical instruments industries be reported in the Open Payments database. The reported details allow us to establish the actual number of US clinical trials in which an investigator has taken part. The last completed database release included data through December 31, 2016. We examine the three years for which complete data are available.

The concentration of clinical trial activity is clear. Less than a third, 29%, of clinical investigators took part in an industry sponsored study for the first time in 2016. They may, of course, have taken part in studies before January 1, 2014. However, for the three years covered by these industry data, these investigators appear for the first time in 2016.

The large number of investigators who average less than two clinical trials a year is noteworthy. Three quarters of the total active US clinical investigator pool fall within this category. Research in a large number of fields demonstrates the value of accumulated learning. This may be expressed in terms such as moving down the experience curve, or simple trial and error. However, a large number of current US clinical investigators have limited clinical trial experience.


Total Number of US Clinical Trials per Investigator (2014-2016)*


2  to 3

4 to 5

6 to 10


11 to 15

More than 15








*for active Clinical Investigators in 2016