"What We Have Here, Is a Failure to [Replicate]"

Ways to Solve a Replication Crisis in Implementation Science

Published in: Prevention Science (2021). doi: 10.1007/s11121-021-01286-9

Posted on RAND.org on August 13, 2021

by Matthew Chinman, Joie D. Acosta, Patricia A. Ebener, Amy L. Shearer

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Adapting the classic line from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, the title is meant to convey that implementation science (IS), like other fields, has not been embracing replication studies, which is a key component to the open science movement. The purpose of this article is to review what is known about replication of implementation trials and identify the gaps and next steps to continue increasing the transparency, openness, and replicability of implementation research. After presenting an overview of study replication and how it is a key component of open science, the article will examine how replication of implementation studies has (or more accurately has not) been approached in IS. As will be discussed, replication in IS shares some challenges with studies that attempt to replicate interventions, but also presents unique challenges. This article discusses different types of replications (e.g., direct vs. conceptual) and how they can benefit the field of IS. The article then presents a specific example of an implementation strategy called Getting To Outcomes© to describe how to design a replication study and interpret the results. The article ends with multiple options implementation scientists could consider to improve the likelihood and quality of replication studies. The discussion also envisions how implementation science can enable researchers and practitioners to work together in real-world contexts to encourage wide replication of implementation studies and advance the goal of improving public health.

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