Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Correspondence

Researcher-decision-maker partnerships in health services research: Practical challenges, guiding principles

Anne Hofmeyer1, Catherine Scott23* and Laura Lagendyk34

Author Affiliations

1 Higher Degrees by Research, School of Nursing & Midwifery, University of South Australia, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide, South Australia, 5001, Australia

2 Departments of Community Health Sciences & Sociology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada

3 Leading Practices & Innovation, Alberta Health Services, Calgary, Canada

4 Senior Knowledge Management Consultant, Alberta Health Services, #400, 1509 Centre Street SW, Calgary, AB, T2G 2E6, Canada

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:280  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-280

Published: 28 August 2012



In health services research, there is a growing view that partnerships between researchers and decision-makers (i.e., collaborative research teams) will enhance the effective translation and use of research results into policy and practice. For this reason, there is an increasing expectation by health research funding agencies that health system managers, policy-makers, practitioners and clinicians will be members of funded research teams. While this view has merit to improve the uptake of research findings, the practical challenges of building and sustaining collaborative research teams with members from both inside and outside the research setting requires consideration. A small body of literature has discussed issues that may arise when conducting research in one’s own setting; however, there is a lack of clear guidance to deal with practical challenges that may arise in research teams that include team members who have links with the organization/community being studied (i.e., are “insiders”).


In this article, we discuss a researcher-decision-maker partnership that investigated practice in primary care networks in Alberta. Specifically, we report on processes to guide the role clarification of insider team members where research activities may pose potential risk to participants or the team members (e.g., access to raw data).


These guiding principles could provide a useful discussion point for researchers and decision-makers engaged in health services research.

Researcher-decision-maker partnership; Collaborative research teams; Health services research; Ethics; Insider research