Changing the culture: a qualitative study exploring research capacity in local government

HOMER, Catherine, WOODALL, James, FREEMAN, Charlotte, SOUTH, Jane, COOKE, Jo, HOLLIDAY, Judith, HARTLEY, Anna and MULLEN, Shane (2022). Changing the culture: a qualitative study exploring research capacity in local government. BMC Public Health, 22: 1341.

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Background Local government has become a key constituent for addressing health inequalities and influencing the health of individuals and communities in England. Lauded as an effective approach to tackle the multiple determinants of health, there are concerns that generating and utilising research evidence to inform decision-making and action is a challenge. This research was conducted in a local authority situated in the north of England and addressed the research question – ‘What is the capacity to collaborate and deliver research?’. The study explored the assets that exist to foster a stronger research culture, identified barriers and opportunities for developing research capacity, and how a sustainable research system could be developed to impact on local residents’ health and reduce health inequalities. Methods This was a qualitative study utilising semi-structured interviews and focus groups. The study used an embedded researcher (ER) who was digitally embedded within the local authority for four months to conduct the data collection. Senior Managers were purposively sampled from across the local authority to take part in interviews. Three focus groups included representation from across the local authority. Framework analysis was conducted to develop the themes which were informed by the Research Capacity Development framework. Results Tensions between research led decision making and the political and cultural context of local government were identified as a barrier to developing research which addressed health inequalities. Research was not prioritised through an organisational strategy and was led sporadically by research active employees. A recognition across leaders that a culture shift to an organisation which used research evidence to develop policy and commission services was needed. Building relationships and infrastructure across local government, place-based collaborators and academic institutions was required. The embedded researcher approach is one method of developing these relationships. The study identifies the strengths and assets that are embedded in the organisational make-up and the potential areas for development. Conclusion Research leadership is required in local government to create a culture of evidence-based principles and policy. The embedded research model has high utility in gaining depth of information and recognising contextual and local factors which would support research capacity development.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1117 Public Health and Health Services; Public Health
Identification Number:
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2022 14:01
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2023 11:03

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