Outcomes of a funding initiative to promote allied health research activity: a qualitative realist evaluation
Joanne Hilder, Sharon Mickan, Christy Noble,Kelly A. Weir & Rachel Wenke
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.