Capacity Development and Training for UK Health Services Research

Lead Research Organisation: MRC Health Services Resrch Collaboration


Health services research (HSR) examines the ways in which we can make sure that any interventions (treatments) or other technologies used in health care (such as diagnostic tests) are as effective as possible, cost-effective, acceptable to the people they are meant to help, and used in an appropriate manner by professionals. Basic medical sciences are resulting in many new tests and treatments becoming available, many of which are extremely expensive, so this work is of increasing importance.||The UK base for HSR has been weak, in part due to the absence of a professional body for people in HSR, a paucity of strong University based departments, and a lack of identity of the subject.||Our capacity development and training programme aims to improve the situation for the future through a number of activities including: appointing and training PhD students; providing support and training for post-doctoral students; the provision of advanced training in research methods for senior researchers. In addition, we internally fund a number of research initiation grants and workshop awards that allow groups of researchers from different disciplines to get together and explore new ways of researching different topics.||

Technical Summary

One of the main aims of the HSRC is to help improve future capacity for high quality HSR in the UK. All scientists within and linked to the HSRC contribute to this programme of work.||Our main activities in this period of funding include:||PhD students: The appointment and provision of training and support for 14 MRC funded four-year PhD studentships. The four-year period allows these students to gain training in and an understanding of multi-disciplinary HSR in addition to the more detailed specific knowledge gained through their research project. In addition, we provide supervision for PhD students with other funding sources.||Post-doctoral students and fellows: We have an annual two-day meeting for all MRC and DoH funded research training fellows in HSR and public health. The meeting facilitates the Fellows in sharing their research with each other and with MRC senior scientists, and provides an opportunity for training through short workshops. To facilitate networking we hold a database of the Fellows interests and expertise.||The HSRC currently employs 20 post-doctoral research staff; we provide opportunities for both generic and discipline-specific training for this group. We undertake annual analyses of their individual needs and commission research training for them.||Senior researchers: We run residential advanced methods workshops and training courses on specific topics, such as our Controversies in Qualitative Methods (Calnan et al), Evidence Synthesis and Decision Analysis (Ades et al),and Applying Psychology in Health Settings (Vedhara et al) in addition to several smaller courses.||Training Bursary Awards (TBAs): We fund up to 15 Training Bursary Awards per year to allow post-graduates in HSR to gain more training in a new discipline relevant to HSR. ||Research Initiation Grants (RIGs): We fund between four and eight RIGs each year. These awards, of around ~~6K each, are designed to encourage multi-disciplinary, multi-site groups to initiate new HSR projects.||Workshop Awards (WAs): Similarly, we fund 5-10 workshops each year, at a cost of approx ~~3K each. These bring together multi-disciplinary groups of researchers to focus on a specific aspect of HSR. As with RIGs, WAs aid capacity development by encouraging the production of new, high quality research projects and networks, as well as through their educational value.||Research: We are also undertaking research into HSR capacity development and training. This includes a needs assessment, examination of the barriers to progress, literature reviews, and an examination of different options for the delivery of effective multi-disciplinary training.||




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Ramkalawan T (2008) Research capacity development and training. in Journal of health services research & policy