Research culture in allied health: a systematic review
Additional Document Info
The Chief Allied Health Advisor, Department of Health Victoria, commissioned a systematic review of the literature on research culture in allied health. With many definitions of allied health used in the literature, this systematic review included those allied health disciplines that were consistent with the Department of Health’s definition. A positive research culture occurs when organisations and individuals strive to use the best available evidence and value the contribution research makes to service improvement and effectiveness. Research capacity building involves developing abilities and skills that will enable the individual and the organisation to undertake high quality research with social change an outcome. The major findings of the systematic review highlighted the lack of research that had focused on allied health research culture and capacity. Below are the major findings and considerations:
• There are a number of factors influencing allied health research involvement. These can be characterised at four levels including: individual, team, organisation and supra-organisation.
• For individual’s competing priorities such as clinical and administration responsibilities reduce time availability to undertake research. Dedicated and quarantined time is required for research which may involve designated allied health research positions and backfill for clinicians.
• Many allied health professionals lack the necessary skills and confidence to undertake research. Upskilling through mentoring, partnering with more experienced researchers or involvement in multidisciplinary teams can overcome skill deficits and increase confidence for those allied health professionals interested in research.
• While there has been minimal research focusing on the benefits of a positive research culture and the uptake of evidence-based practice, this is highly probable. Allied health professionals often have the skills to undertake literature searches and critiquing research findings; however have difficulty performing research tasks such as analysing data and writing up the results. Undergraduate education develops graduate evidence-based practice skills although may not adequately equip all graduates to undertake research.
• Multidisciplinary research teams will provide the necessary support to individual allied health professionals and lead to increased overall research productivity and impact. Research undertaken by individual allied health professionals, unless within a postgraduate education program where support is provided will result in minimal gains.
• While health services may include research as a priority in their strategic plans, in practice this does not always translate to support for allied health research. Collaborations with university partners through conjoint positions including at early career research levels, across all allied health disciplines would provide leadership and profile to enhance the research culture. This would be beneficial to both partners with increased clinically based research having a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of communities.
• Establishment of robust research networks that connect clinicians and researchers across organisations, leading to high quality research that is published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at national and international conferences.
• Providing an alternative career pathway for allied health professionals to pursue research endeavours is likely to reduce attrition where clinicians change careers due to lack of advancement and professional challenges.
• High quality studies utilising mixed methods are required to vigorously evaluate current and recommended strategies to increase allied health research productivity and capacity.