Mar 6, 2011
A Multinational Case Study Approach
Published in: Implementation Science, v. 9, no. 47, 2014, p. 201-209
Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2014
BACKGROUND: Funders of health research increasingly seek to understand how best to allocate resources in order to achieve maximum value from their funding. We built an international consortium and developed a multinational case study approach to assess benefits arising from health research. We used that to facilitate analysis of factors in the production of research that might be associated with translating research findings into wider impacts, and the complexities involved. METHODS: We built on the Payback Framework and expanded its application through conducting co-ordinated case studies on the payback from cardiovascular and stroke research in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. We selected a stratified random sample of projects from leading medical research funders. We devised a series of innovative steps to: minimize the effect of researcher bias; rate the level of impacts identified in the case studies; and interrogate case study narratives to identify factors that correlated with achieving high or low levels of impact. RESULTS: Twenty-nine detailed case studies produced many and diverse impacts. Over the 15 to 20 years examined, basic biomedical research has a greater impact than clinical research in terms of academic impacts such as knowledge production and research capacity building. Clinical research has greater levels of wider impact on health policies, practice, and generating health gains. There was no correlation between knowledge production and wider impacts. We identified various factors associated with high impact. Interaction between researchers and practitioners and the public is associated with achieving high academic impact and translation into wider impacts, as is basic research conducted with a clinical focus. Strategic thinking by clinical researchers, in terms of thinking through pathways by which research could potentially be translated into practice, is associated with high wider impact. Finally, we identified the complexity of factors behind research translation that can arise in a single case. CONCLUSIONS: We can systematically assess research impacts and use the findings to promote translation. Research funders can justify funding research of diverse types, but they should not assume academic impacts are proxies for wider impacts. They should encourage researchers to consider pathways towards impact and engage potential research users in research processes.