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OP96 What determinants of public health research activity contextualise embedded researcher roles? A qualitative investigation in English local government
  1. Rachael Edwards,
  2. Dylan Kneale,
  3. Sarah Lester,
  4. Claire Stansfield
  1. Institute of Education – Social Research Institute, University College London, London, UK


Background Improved collaboration between public health practitioners and academia could enhance the flow of research evidence into policy and practice. Embedded researchers present one type of intervention with the potential to bridge the research-implementation gap through their dual affiliations with decision makers and academia. These roles are being implemented with increasing popularity in public health settings to improve evidence use, but they often lack clear theories of change and evaluative frameworks. Understanding initial levels of research activity, including associated barriers and opportunities, is essential to shaping these roles and defining expectations. We aimed to identify i) the principal determinants of research activity in public health that contextualise embedded researcher roles and ii) the attributes of embedded researchers that are needed to influence this activity.

Methods We undertook seventeen semi-structured interviews with embedded researchers working in local government public health settings in England. These roles were part of a Clinical Research Network funded programme to enhance research cultures in local government. They thus presented a unique opportunity to explore trends across embedded researchers connected through shared aims but placed within diverse local government contexts. An inductive thematic analysis approach was applied.

Results Research activity varied substantially across local government settings and rising funding inequities were discussed. Research and interpersonal skills, as well as pre-existing connections and experience within local government, were primary valued attributes for embedded researchers. The career stage of embedded researchers also had several implications for the roles and presents an important consideration for intervention design. Resource deficiencies (funding, time, and infrastructure) were primary barriers to research activity. A strong local appetite for research presented a primary opportunity. However, there were inconsistencies in what was perceived to constitute ‘research’ and a hesitancy to engage in research activity due to concerns that involvement would be highly resource intensive.

Discussion A wide variety of determinants of research activity were identified as relevant to embedded researcher roles in public health settings. Involving embedded researchers in the process of investigating these determinants in a local context could provide an opportunity to build trust with colleagues and enhance local buy-in. This research focused on a specific programme of embedded researcher activity and the generalisability of our results is, therefore, limited to other schemes operating in similar contexts. As such, future research is needed to explore the relevant determinants of research activity for more diverse embedded researcher interventions across different layers of local government.

  • Evidence use
  • Embedded researcher
  • Theories of change

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