Open Access Correspondence

Enhancing research capacity across healthcare and higher education sectors: development and evaluation of an integrated model

Anne Whitworth1*, Shona Haining2 and Helen Stringer3

Author affiliations

1 School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin Health Innovation and Research Institute, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, 6845, Australia

2 NHS North of Tyne, Bevan House, 1 Esh Plaza, Sir Bobby Robson Way, Great Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE13 9BA, UK

3 School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University, King George VI Building, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:287  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-287

Published: 28 August 2012



With current policy in healthcare research, in the United Kingdom and internationally, focused on development of research excellence in individuals and teams, building capacity for implementation and translation of research is paramount among the professionals who use that research in daily practice. The judicious use of research outcomes and evaluation of best evidence and practice in healthcare is integrally linked to the research capacity and capabilities of the workforce. In addition to promoting high quality research, mechanisms for actively enhancing research capacity more generally must be in place to address the complexities that both undermine and facilitate this activity.


A comprehensive collaborative model for building research capacity in one health professional group, speech and language therapy, was developed in a region within the UK and is presented here. The North East of England and the strong research ethos of this profession in addressing complex interventions offered a fertile context for developing and implementing a model which integrated the healthcare and university sectors. Two key frameworks underpin this model. The first addresses the individual participants’ potential trajectory from research consciousness to research participative to research active. The second embeds a model developed for general practitioners into a broader framework of practice-academic partnership and knowledge and skills exchange, and considers external drivers and impacts on practice and patient outcomes as key elements.

Results and discussion

The integration of practice and academia has been successful in building a culture of research activity within one healthcare profession in a region in the UK and has resulted, to date, in a series of research related outcomes. Understanding the key components of this partnership and the explicit strategies used has driven the implementation of the model and are discussed here.


A strong, equitable collaboration between clinical and academic partners working towards a common outcome can enhance the use of research within the healthcare workforce and contribute actively to the research process. A set of propositions are specified to facilitate both transferability of this partnership model to other professional groups and clinical teams and evaluation of the model components.