Abstract Background. Although numerous important contributions have originated from basic science research performed by surgeons, it seems that such dedicated work is becoming increasingly difficult to accomplish. What are the reasons for this change and what improvements can be made? This study aims to characterize the basic research training and careers of senior academic surgeons to assess and devise strategies for sustaining productive and quality surgical research. Methods. A 25-item survey was sent to 850 senior-level members of academic societies, including the Association of Academic Surgeons, Society of University Surgeons, and American Surgical Association. It addressed each surgeon's clinical and research training and career, as well as opinions concerning surgical research. Results. Three hundred seventy-seven (44%) surveys were received. Mean age was 64 years, and 73% were full professors. Seventy-two percent of respondents performed basic science research during training, and for 71% of this group, research was a significant reason for choosing a clinical specialty. Ninety-one percent performed research in the same specialty area during and after training. Of those who performed research during training, a full 99% continued to perform research on completion of training. However, 38% stopped performing basic research by age 39. Seventeen and twenty-three percent stopped basic research between 40 and 49 and between 50 and 59 years of age, respectively. The most common factors causing them to stop were increased clinical load (40%) and increased administrative duties (38%). For respondents who had stopped research prior to age 40, 73% cited increased clinical load as the primary reason. Eighty-five percent felt a dedicated research period should be included in surgery training. Conclusions. Most respondents had participated in basic research during training, and continued similar research after training. However, an overwhelming clinical practice at the junior faculty level seemed to hinder research. We conclude: (1) the majority consensus is that research training is integral to the development of academic surgeons; (2) such research training opportunities appear adequate; however, (3) faculty performing research, particularly at the junior level, need to be better protected from other academic duties, such as clinical practice and administration. The challenge to the leadership of academic surgery will be to enhance such research productivity in the context of increasing academic demands.