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On-going collaborative priority-setting for research activity: a method of capacity building to reduce the research-practice translational gap

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Health Research Policy and Systems

BioMed Central

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      International policy suggests that collaborative priority setting (CPS) between researchers and end users of research should shape the research agenda, and can increase capacity to address the research-practice translational gap. There is limited research evidence to guide how this should be done to meet the needs of dynamic healthcare systems. One-off priority setting events and time-lag between decision and action prove problematic. This study illustrates the use of CPS in a UK research collaboration called Collaboration and Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC).


      Data were collected from a north of England CLAHRC through semi-structured interviews with 28 interviewees and a workshop of key stakeholders (n = 21) including academics, NHS clinicians, and managers. Documentary analysis of internal reports and CLAHRC annual reports for the first two and half years was also undertaken. These data were thematically coded.


      Methods of CPS linked to the developmental phase of the CLAHRC. Early methods included pre-existing historical partnerships with on-going dialogue. Later, new platforms for on-going discussions were formed. Consensus techniques with staged project development were also used. All methods demonstrated actual or potential change in practice and services. Impact was enabled through the flexibility of research and implementation work streams; ‘matched’ funding arrangements to support alignment of priorities in partner organisations; the size of the collaboration offering a resource to meet project needs; and the length of the programme providing stability and long term relationships. Difficulties included tensions between being responsive to priorities and the possibility of ‘drift’ within project work, between academics and practice, and between service providers and commissioners in the health services. Providing protected ‘matched’ time proved difficult for some NHS managers, which put increasing work pressure on them. CPS is more time consuming than traditional approaches to project development.


      CPS can produce needs-led projects that are bedded in services using a variety of methods. Contributing factors for effective CPS include flexibility in use and type of available resources, flexible work plans, and responsive leadership. The CLAHRC model provides a translational infrastructure that enables CPS that can impact on healthcare systems.

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      Most cited references 35

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      The Science of Evaluation: A Realist Manifesto

       Ray Pawson (2013)
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        Building capacity in health research in the developing world.

        Strong national health research systems are needed to improve health systems and attain better health. For developing countries to indigenize health research systems, it is essential to build research capacity. We review the positive features and weaknesses of various approaches to capacity building, emphasizing that complementary approaches to human resource development work best in the context of a systems and long-term perspective. As a key element of capacity building, countries must also address issues related to the enabling environment, in particular: leadership, career structure, critical mass, infrastructure, information access and interfaces between research producers and users. The success of efforts to build capacity in developing countries will ultimately depend on political will and credibility, adequate financing, and a responsive capacity-building plan that is based on a thorough situational analysis of the resources needed for health research and the inequities and gaps in health care. Greater national and international investment in capacity building in developing countries has the greatest potential for securing dynamic and agile knowledge systems that can deliver better health and equity, now and in the future.
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          Utilization-focused evaluation


            Author and article information

            [ ]NIHR Collaboration and Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care for Yorkshire and Humber (CLAHRC YH), Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 2JF UK
            [ ]STH NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 2JF UK
            [ ]Sheffield Hallam University, Robert Winston Building, Collegiate Crescent Campus Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S10 2 BP UK
            [ ]School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, UK University of Sheffield, Regent Court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield, S1 4DA UK
            [ ]Barnsley Hospital Foundation Trust, Barnsley, South Yorkshire UK
            Health Res Policy Syst
            Health Res Policy Syst
            Health Research Policy and Systems
            BioMed Central (London )
            7 May 2015
            7 May 2015
            : 13
            25948236 4455707 14 10.1186/s12961-015-0014-y
            © Cooke et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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