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Generalizing and Context in Implementation Research: Tensions and Opportunities

Edited by:
Whitney Irie, PhD, Boston College School of Social Work, USA
Aaloke Mody, MD, Washington University School of Medicine, USA
Radhika Sundararajan, MD, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine & Center for Global Health, USA

Submission Status: Open   |   Submission Deadline: 1 August 2024


Implementation Science and Implementation Science Communications are calling for submissions to our Collection on Generalizing and Context in Implementation Research: Tensions and Opportunities.


New Content ItemThis collection supports and amplifies research related SDG 3: Good Health & Wellbeing, SDG 4: Quality Education, SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities, and SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals.

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Implementation Science
Implementation Science Communications

About the Collection

Implementation science both emphasizes the primacy of context but also seeks — as a scientific endeavor — generalizable or transferable insights and inferences that apply or inform across those settings. Implementing contexts are highly variable social, organizational, and community systems. Similarly, the nature of influence, power, and positionality varies across the relationships in these specific systems. Across such environments, singular insights about the effects of strategies, their barriers, facilitators, or even mechanisms cannot be expected to be invariant. Yet accepting the premise in implementation science that every context is unique seemingly precludes one of the central features of the discipline itself, which is to seek insights that apply widely and are useful for prediction. How does implementation science reconcile its pursuit of scientific legitimacy and generalizing while maintaining its commitment to understanding what works, for whom, and under what circumstances — when these circumstances vary?

In the growth of implementation science, scientific capacity and resources have been not equitably distributed, and we find a preponderance to generalize views that are particular, historical, and situated primarily in the Global North to the Global South. The same can be said for generalizing to marginalized settings within HIC. Although adaptation has been proposed to salvage such claims, there might also be a need to challenge existing routes of generalizing that reflect power more than science.

In order to address this tension, we seek a range of papers that address the question of generalizability in implementation science. We seek contributions that will contextualize the implications of this tension between generalizability and specificity to context and draw from other disciplines to explore methods and approaches to advance this area of inquiry. While context and generalizing are often discussed in implementation research, additional investment in this conversation can help untangle, flesh out, and even reconcile the perceived contradiction between context and generalizability. In this call, we seek to go beyond focusing on the importance of context and challenges in generalization in order to garner insights on how to address emergent issues and move key concepts and innovative frameworks in the field forward. Submissions that are responsive to this call will use various forms of evidence to address one or more of the following:

  • Examine and interrogate the promises and pitfalls of key concepts in implementation science and their generalizability across settings, including HIC and LMIC settings.
  • Discuss the implications for knowledge generation practices in implementation science; for example, contributors may consider how they ensure voices from the margins are included in this generative process.
  • Produce both qualitative and quantitative insights that apply across contexts and accommodate heterogeneity. This may include an interrogation of the nature and notion of drawing inferences across settings.
  • Utilize advanced qualitative methods to inform generalizability and transferability in implementation science, which may be inclusive of the use of non-traditional qualitative methods. 
  • Interrogate core elements of context and what needs to be known about them for generalizability.
  • Consider the role of mechanisms and their use for bridging specificity to context and generalizability. 
  • Evaluate theoretical perspectives on context and generalizability, including the mobilization of critical theory, transportability, and/or realist approaches. 
  • Undertake a social epistemological analysis of generalizability in implementation science, accounting for situated and embodied knowledge, the social genesis, and positionality of ideas that constitute knowledge in a given context.

There are currently no articles in this collection.

Submission Guidelines

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This Collection welcomes submission of a range of article types. Should you wish to submit to this Collection, please read the submission guidelines of the journal you are submitting to Implementation Science or Implementation Science Communications to confirm that type is accepted by the journal you are submitting to. 

Articles for this Collection should be submitted via our submission systems in Implementation Science or Implementation Science Communications. During the submission process you will be asked whether you are submitting to a Collection, please select "Generalizing and Context in Implementation Research: Tensions and Opportunities" from the dropdown menu.

Articles will undergo the standard peer-review process of the journal they are considered in Implementation Science or Implementation Science Communications and are subject to all of the journal’s standard policies. Articles will be added to the Collection as they are published.

The Editors have no competing interests with the submissions which they handle through the peer-review process. The peer-review of any submissions for which the Editors have competing interests is handled by another Editorial Board Member who has no competing interests.