Outcomes of a funding initiative to promote allied health research activity: a qualitative realist evaluation

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Hilder, Joanne
Mickan, Sharon
Noble, Christy
Weir, Kelly A
Wenke, Rachel
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Background: Providing funding for clinicians to have protected time to undertake research can address a commonly cited barrier to research – lack of time. However, limited research has evaluated the impact or mechanisms of such funding initiatives. In the current economic environment, it is important that funding is used efficiently and judiciously and that mechanisms and contexts that may assist with maximising outcomes of funding initiatives are identified. This study aimed to describe the medium-term outcomes of a funding initiative to promote allied health research activity and to identify the key mechanisms and contexts that facilitated these outcomes. Methods: We used a qualitative research design informed by a realist evaluation, to conduct 10 semi-structured interviews with allied health professionals who had participated in a funding initiative 1–3 years ago. Questions explored outcomes, mechanisms and contexts of the funding initiative. Data was thematically coded into context– mechanism–outcome configurations. Results: Medium term outcomes included increased individual research opportunities, influence on team research culture and impact on clinical work/practice. Other outcomes included increased clinician confidence, knowledge and skill, and research outputs. However, some participants still had difficulties progressing research. Four context– mechanism–outcome configurations were identified to explain which contexts and mechanisms produced these outcomes. Examples of contexts included perception of managerial support, undertaking a research-based higher degree and joint applications, while mechanisms included accessing infrastructure and resources as well as individual researcher factors like motivation. Conclusion: Providing funding to allied health professionals to undertake and complete research can lead to important outcomes, including increased research opportunities, capacity and culture, increased research outputs, and changes to clinical practice. Outcomes are influenced by unique contexts and mechanisms and these should be considered in future implementation of similar funding initiatives.

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Health Research Policy and Systems
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© The Author(s). 2020. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
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Health services and systems
Allied health and rehabilitation science
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Hilder, J; Mickan, S; Noble, C; Weir, KA; Wenke, R, Outcomes of a funding initiative to promote allied health research activity: a qualitative realist evaluation, Health Research Policy and Systems, 2020, 18 (1), pp. 71:1-71:11