Stakeholder Engagement in EQUIPT for Impact (SEE-IMPACT)

Lead Research Organisation: Kingston University
Department Name: Faculty of Health Soc Care & Education

Abstract

The aim of the study is to understand better the ways in which the engagement of potential users, or stakeholders, (such as policy makers) in the processes of a research study might increase the impact of research. It is also hoped the study might increase the ability to transfer innovations from one country to another, and to identify early signs that a project will eventually make an impact.

The study will use a range of methods including interviews, surveys, observations and reviews of documents to develop a detailed understanding of how stakeholder engagement might work as a mechanism for promoting impact. An initial literature review on stakeholder engagement will be used to distil a set of propositions for testing. For example, does the intensity of stakeholder engagement, the timing of their involvement, and the nature of the stakeholders who get involved make a difference?

The study will follow a 2 million Euro European Commission funded project called European-study on Quantifying Utility of Investment in Protection from Tobacco (EQUIPT) for three years (the life of the project). The researchers will observe all the stakeholder events organised by the EQUIPT project, interview stakeholders, conduct stakeholder surveys and review relevant documents. The study will mainly be conducted in the UK and four other European countries (Germany, Hungary, Spain, The Netherlands) so there will be opportunities to compare stakeholder involvement in different contexts. The project will produce a detailed account of the evidence supporting (or refuting) the initial propositions and will begin to develop a set of indicators for use in the planning and assessment of stakeholder engagement.

The team have expertise in the field of research impact assessment and members of the team have experience of working together successfully in past. An international virtual advisory group will support the project. The team will share their findings through the advisory group and existing networks of colleagues interested in issues to do with the organisation and evaluation of research, in the health field and more widely, project web pages, and dissemination events. It is hoped that the findings will be of use to a wide range of medical research funders, in the public and charitable sectors, who are increasingly concerned to engage different groups of potential users in their research so that the research meets their needs.

Technical Summary

There is a growing literature on the potential of stakeholder engagement as a mechanism for promoting research use and impact, but limited analysis of how it best works in practice. The main objective of our proposed study (SEE-IMPACT) is to use a prospective approach to facilitate a more nuanced, empirically grounded analysis of the ways in which stakeholder engagement might operate as a key pathway to maximising impact from health research. The study also provides the opportunity to investigate ways of enhancing the transferability, and hence impact, of research.
The SEE-IMPACT study will focus on an EU funded study (EQUIPT), which aims to achieve immediate impact through working with stakeholders to generate and disseminate bespoke information about the economic and wider returns from investing in evidence-based tobacco control agendas. The starting point is a 'return on investment' (ROI) tool developed in the UK, which will provide a baseline case study.
Partly drawing on previous Payback studies, the SEE-IMPACT study will use a multi-method approach to test a series of hypotheses drawn from the literature. To seek to overcome the limitations of self report and recall in retrospective impact studies, the approach will also go further than previous Payback studies, as it will be prospective in design and will make greater use of participant and non-participant observation. The project will produce a detailed account of the evidence supporting (or refuting) the set of hypotheses distilled from the literature. In addition, the project will produce a detailed data set that might not only help identify preliminary indicators of effective stakeholder engagement, but also be one that could be revisited in a subsequent retrospective analysis.
Representatives from research funding organisations who make decisions about stakeholder engagement will be involved in the project's international virtual advisory group so as to enhance the potential use of the findings.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research
In the case of 'research on research' there are various levels of potential beneficiaries:
1. Those who run and manage the wide range of medical, health (and other) research funding organisations in the UK and internationally, and other policy makers within the field of health research and health research translation. In the Pathways to Impact section we set out how we would build on existing links with a range of organisations to ensure the findings from this study about stakeholder engagement are made available to them. They include:
- Organisations related to UK publicly funded research: UKRC and individual research councils such as MRC and ESRC; DH/NIHR ;NICE; HEFCE; DfID; INVOLVE.
- UK charitable research funders: Wellcome Trust; Association of Medical Research Charities, and individual research charities in the UK.
- Overseas medical research funders, both public bodies and charities: previous work conducted by HERG on assessing the impact of health means the findings could be sent to contacts in such bodies in: Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Hong Kong, Spain, The Netherlands, and USA.
- International organisations including the European Commission and the World Health Organisation.
2. More indirectly, a very large number of researchers, and their higher education institutions, could potentially be interested in this research and benefit from it. These academics go well beyond the relatively small academic international community described in the above section who study how research is organised and the impacts that arise, especially in relation to medical research.
3. Finally, and even more indirectly, if the above groups do benefit from the findings of this research in terms of being better able to organise research so that it meets the needs of various stakeholder groups within society, then it is whole societies that could, in turn, potentially benefit. This would, however, be very indirect.
How will they benefit from this research?
All the groups listed above might benefit in various and sometimes overlapping ways.
1. Currently there is often a small evidence base available those making decisions about how best to organise research systems, and to translate innovations arising from medical research into their systems. This study could potentially provide them with an improved evidence base:
- In relation to the nature, intensity and timing of stakeholder engagement.
- In relation to how to develop and apply intermediate indicators of research impact. One of the major problems facing research funding bodies is to know how to conduct research impact assessments when it is claimed that research impacts often do not arise for many years (an average of 17 is often stated) after the research has been conducted. The data set from this prospective study might in itself provide some information on which to base intermediate indicators, and it would also provide the opportunity for a subsequent retrospective study of the impact from EQUIPT to compare impacts with evidence about the processes of the research.
- More detailed information about the transferability of innovations from one country to another should be of value to those running healthcare systems.
2. The wider community of academic researchers, and their institutions, might benefit because the proposed project addresses an issue about the organisation of research (stakeholder engagement) which they are increasingly being asked to address. It could provide information for them to do this more efficiently than previously.
3. There are many ways in which the wider society could benefit from the increased efficiency in the research system that might arise in the ways set out above. While being very indirect, these could occur across the range of the impacts that can be achieved in terms of improved health policies, products and practices leading to eventual health gains (and greater equity) and economic benefits.

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