Many reviews of the use of research evidence in public health decision-making have been suggestive of an underutilisation of research evidence in decision-making in local public health decision-making. Several potential barriers and facilitators to the utilisation of research evidence in decision-making have been identified. However, understanding how these can be addressed is challenging as we often lack detailed understandings of current practice and process models which identify evidence needs at different stages of decision-making for different types of decisions being made. Many of the issues surrounding the perceived underutilisation of research evidence may be as much a reflection of the ‘supply’ side and ensuring that research is produced in a way that can be used either instrumentally or for enlightenment, as much as a reflection of the ‘demand’ side and the need to stimulate engagement with research evidence among policy-makers. This work focusses on one type of ‘intervention’ – embedded researchers – and explores their potential in helping organisations to become more research active. We view organisations that are research active as those that are engaging with research evidence (i.e. using research evidence to inform their practice or decision-making) or generating research (i.e. producing research internally or commissioning research) or who are influencing research (i.e. influencing the conduct of research or contributing to influence research priorities).
What do we want to know?
We want to know what are the features of different embedded researcher ‘interventions’ and how can these influence organisations to become more research active. Our research questions are set out below:
- What are the aims of embedding researchers in decision-making contexts?
- What different typologies of embedded researcher exist within public health decision-making settings and beyond?
- How do different typologies of embedded researcher influence contexts in different ways?
- Which typologies of embedded researcher model do recent activities follow and what influence do these models have on helping organisations to become more research active?
- How effective are embedded research activities in meeting their aims and helping organisations to become more research active?
How will we undertake the project?
This research is being undertaken as a mixed methods research project. With the support of an Advisory Group of experts in the field we will:
- Develop a systematic map of the evaluation literature on embedded researchers;
- Undertake a systematic review of the influence of embedded researchers on helping organisations to become more research active;
- Conduct primary research (involving quantitative and qualitative methods) to better understand research activities within Local Authority public health decision-making and the influence of embedded researchers in enhancing research activity and capacity.
An additional study: Protected Research Time
As another strand to the embedded researchers project, an additional primary study will explore embedded researchers and protected research time from a leadership perspective. We will draw on the insights and experiences of Directors of Public Health, Consultants of Public Health, and key collaborators to understand how protected research time and, where relevant, embedded researcher are received by public health teams, and the ways in which they contribute to reshaping local authorities’ organisational processes and practices to become more research active.
Aims and objectives
The study aims to develop understanding of the wider contextual factors which affect local authorities’ receptiveness and capacity to become more research active. In turn, it seeks to evaluate the influence that the interventions have on organisational practices and processes around research production, engagement, and use.
Main Research Questions
- What are the aims of awarding Consultants of Public Health and Directors of Public Health protected research time?
- How do Directors of Public Health and Consultants in Public Health experience interventions aiming to make their organisation more research active? How do key collaborators experience their involvement with these interventions?
- How do environmental and organisational factors make local authority public health teams (un)receptive and (un)responsive to these interventions?
- How have the interventions reshaped the local authorities’ organisational processes, behaviours and cultures around research production and use?
Qualitative methods, in the form of semi-structured interviews and focus groups conducted online. Participants in the study will include:
- Directors of Public Health and Consultants in Public Health who have been awarded protected research time by NIHR (estimated 7 - 10).
- Key collaborators identified by Directors of Public Health and Consultants in Public Health (estimated 12-15).
Please contact Sarah Lester (email firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information or if you would like to be involved in this particular study.
How can you find out more or get involved?
We want to be make sure that this project is as useful for Local Authority public health practitioners and other relevant stakeholders as possible. We can only do this with your involvement! Please get in touch with us (email D.Kneale@ucl.ac.uk) if you would like to help in any of the following ways:
Advise us! We are kindly supported by an advisory group – if you would like to find out more or become a part of this advisory group please let us know – we would love to hear your contributions.
Alert us! Let us know if you have any studies that you think should be included in a review of embedded researcher activity, or if you are working on relevant research in this area.
- Get involved! We are currently scoping out an evaluation study of embedded research activity. If you are working as an embedded researcher in public health, or are planning to do so, please let us know. We would love to talk to you about this.
Who is conducting the research?
This research is being conducted by Dylan Kneale, Claire Stansfield, Sarah Lester and James Thomas from the EPPI Centre with the assistance of Rebecca Goldman.