As interest in the research to practice gap has increased, so too has the terminology used to describe the approaches which can be employed. Diffusion, dissemination, implementation, knowledge transfer, knowledge mobilisation, linkage and exchange, and research into practice are all being used to describe overlapping and interrelated concepts and practices. As well as different terminology, many different frameworks and plans are used by researchers to guide their dissemination activities. In this project we identified over 20 such frameworks. We also searched for frameworks which were made available by research funders for researchers’ use to help them with dissemination of findings, and found only one, from the ESRC. Instead, UK funders usually ask applicants to briefly indicate how findings arising from their proposed research will be disseminated. We concluded that funding agencies could do more to encourage grant applicants to adopt a theoretically-informed approach to their research dissemination. A more systematic use of existing conceptual frameworks could also help enhance the uptake of research findings in policy and practice.
As part of this project we also conducted a survey of researchers’ attitudes and practices in relation to applied health services and public health research. We contacted 10 UK funders of such research to identify 536 researchers in receipt of such funding from 2003-2008. Although three-quarters of respondents indicated that as part of their research dissemination activities they would consider how audiences or groups would like to access, read, and use research findings, only a minority of researchers (20%) reported that their Unit or Department had a research dissemination strategy. Capturing the impact of such research is always difficult, but 70% could describe any impacts their activities had had on health policy and practice. Just over one-half (51%) indicated that their research had led to discussions or interactions with policy makers and/or had been cited or included in policy documents. The interactions included direct engagement with national and international government ministers, local NHS commissioning agencies, National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Appraisal Committees (and European equivalents), the National Screening Committee, Parliamentary Select Committee for Health, and the National Clinical Directors for Cancer and Mental Health. However not all impacts were positive; 12% felt the findings of their research had been misrepresented or used in ways that they felt were inappropriate, and half of those referred to misrepresentation in the mass media. Respondents were also asked whether there were any methods of disseminating research findings that they would like to have used, but are unable to do so. Areas where it was suggested that researchers could be supported better included improved access to policy makers, help with media coverage, e-dissemination, workshops, funds for open access publishing, and materials for participant feedback.
Wilson P M, Petticrew M, Calnan M, Nazareth I. Disseminating research findings: what should researchers do? A systematic scoping review of conceptual frameworks. Implementation Science 2010;5:91pubmed open access
Wilson P M, Petticrew M, Calnan M, Nazareth I. Does dissemination extend beyond publication: a survey of a cross section of public funded research in the UK. Implementation Science 2010;5:61pubmed open access
Wilson P M, Petticrew M, Calnan M, Nazareth I. Effects of a financial incentive on health researchers’ response to an online survey: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research 2010;12:e13pubmed open access
Wilson P, Petticrew M, on behalf of the Medical Research Council's Population Health Sciences Research Network Knowledge Transfer Project team , Calnan M, Nazareth I. Why promote the findings of single research studies?. BMJ 2008;336:722-3pubmed