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      How to engage stakeholders in research: design principles to support improvement


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          Closing the gap between research production and research use is a key challenge for the health research system. Stakeholder engagement is being increasingly promoted across the board by health research funding organisations, and indeed by many researchers themselves, as an important pathway to achieving impact. This opinion piece draws on a study of stakeholder engagement in research and a systematic literature search conducted as part of the study.

          Main body

          This paper provides a short conceptualisation of stakeholder engagement, followed by ‘design principles’ that we put forward based on a combination of existing literature and new empirical insights from our recently completed longitudinal study of stakeholder engagement. The design principles for stakeholder engagement are organised into three groups, namely organisational, values and practices. The organisational principles are to clarify the objectives of stakeholder engagement; embed stakeholder engagement in a framework or model of research use; identify the necessary resources for stakeholder engagement; put in place plans for organisational learning and rewarding of effective stakeholder engagement; and to recognise that some stakeholders have the potential to play a key role. The principles relating to values are to foster shared commitment to the values and objectives of stakeholder engagement in the project team; share understanding that stakeholder engagement is often about more than individuals; encourage individual stakeholders and their organisations to value engagement; recognise potential tension between productivity and inclusion; and to generate a shared commitment to sustained and continuous stakeholder engagement. Finally, in terms of practices, the principles suggest that it is important to plan stakeholder engagement activity as part of the research programme of work; build flexibility within the research process to accommodate engagement and the outcomes of engagement; consider how input from stakeholders can be gathered systematically to meet objectives; consider how input from stakeholders can be collated, analysed and used; and to recognise that identification and involvement of stakeholders is an iterative and ongoing process.


          It is anticipated that the principles will be useful in planning stakeholder engagement activity within research programmes and in monitoring and evaluating stakeholder engagement. A next step will be to address the remaining gap in the stakeholder engagement literature concerned with how we assess the impact of stakeholder engagement on research use.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (10.1186/s12961-018-0337-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references27

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          The utilisation of health research in policy-making: concepts, examples and methods of assessment

          The importance of health research utilisation in policy-making, and of understanding the mechanisms involved, is increasingly recognised. Recent reports calling for more resources to improve health in developing countries, and global pressures for accountability, draw greater attention to research-informed policy-making. Key utilisation issues have been described for at least twenty years, but the growing focus on health research systems creates additional dimensions. The utilisation of health research in policy-making should contribute to policies that may eventually lead to desired outcomes, including health gains. In this article, exploration of these issues is combined with a review of various forms of policy-making. When this is linked to analysis of different types of health research, it assists in building a comprehensive account of the diverse meanings of research utilisation. Previous studies report methods and conceptual frameworks that have been applied, if with varying degrees of success, to record utilisation in policy-making. These studies reveal various examples of research impact within a general picture of underutilisation. Factors potentially enhancing utilisation can be identified by exploration of: priority setting; activities of the health research system at the interface between research and policy-making; and the role of the recipients, or 'receptors', of health research. An interfaces and receptors model provides a framework for analysis. Recommendations about possible methods for assessing health research utilisation follow identification of the purposes of such assessments. Our conclusion is that research utilisation can be better understood, and enhanced, by developing assessment methods informed by conceptual analysis and review of previous studies.
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            Integrated knowledge translation (IKT) in health care: a scoping review

            Background Integrated knowledge translation (IKT) refers to collaboration between researchers and decision-makers. While advocated as an approach for enhancing the relevance and use of research, IKT is challenging and inconsistently applied. This study sought to inform future IKT practice and research by synthesizing studies that empirically evaluated IKT and identifying knowledge gaps. Methods We performed a scoping review. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library from 2005 to 2014 for English language studies that evaluated IKT interventions involving researchers and organizational or policy-level decision-makers. Data were extracted on study characteristics, IKT intervention (theory, content, mode, duration, frequency, personnel, participants, timing from initiation, initiator, source of funding, decision-maker involvement), and enablers, barriers, and outcomes reported by studies. We performed content analysis and reported summary statistics. Results Thirteen studies were eligible after screening 14,754 titles and reviewing 106 full-text studies. Details about IKT activities were poorly reported, and none were formally based on theory. Studies varied in the number and type of interactions between researchers and decision-makers; meetings were the most common format. All studies reported barriers and facilitators. Studies reported a range of positive and sub-optimal outcomes. Outcomes did not appear to be associated with initiator of the partnership, dedicated funding, partnership maturity, nature of decision-maker involvement, presence or absence of enablers or barriers, or the number of different IKT activities. Conclusions The IKT strategies that achieve beneficial outcomes remain unknown. We generated a summary of IKT approaches, enablers, barriers, conditions, and outcomes that can serve as the basis for a future review or for planning ongoing primary research. Future research can contribute to three identified knowledge gaps by examining (1) how different IKT strategies influence outcomes, (2) the relationship between the logic or theory underlying IKT interventions and beneficial outcomes, and (3) when and how decision-makers should be involved in the research process. Future IKT initiatives should more systematically plan and document their design and implementation, and evaluations should report the findings with sufficient detail to reveal how IKT was associated with outcomes. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-016-0399-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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              Evaluating patient and stakeholder engagement in research: moving from theory to practice.

              Despite the growing demand for research that engages stakeholders, there is limited evidence in the literature to demonstrate its value - or return on investment. This gap indicates a general lack of evaluation of engagement activities. To adequately inform engagement activities, we need to further investigate the dividends of engaged research, and how to evaluate these effects. This paper synthesizes the literature on hypothesized impacts of engagement, shares what has been evaluated and identifies steps needed to reduce the gap between engagement's promises and the underlying evidence supporting its practice. This assessment provides explicit guidance for better alignment of engagement's promised benefits with evaluation efforts and identifies specific areas for development of evaluative measures and better reporting processes.

                Author and article information

                Health Res Policy Syst
                Health Res Policy Syst
                Health Research Policy and Systems
                BioMed Central (London )
                11 July 2018
                11 July 2018
                : 16
                [1 ]ISNI 0000000121901201, GRID grid.83440.3b, Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, a partnership between Kingston University and St George’s, University of London, ; London, United Kingdom
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0724 6933, GRID grid.7728.a, Health Economics Research Group, , Brunel University London, ; Uxbridge, United Kingdom
                [3 ]Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
                [4 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1754 9227, GRID grid.12380.38, VU University Amsterdam, ; Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                © The Author(s). 2018

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. 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.

                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100000265, Medical Research Council;
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                © The Author(s) 2018

                Health & Social care
                Health & Social care


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