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Gerontologist. 2003 Mar;43 Spec No 1:29-36.

Obstacles to implementing research outcomes in community settings.

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Department of Psychology and Edward R Roybal Center for Research on Applied Gerontology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 35294-2100, USA.



In contrast to controlled laboratory- or clinic-based research that can fail to capture the real-world behaviors of older adults, field research offers the best opportunity for ecological validity. However, the tradeoff inherent in field studies is the potential sacrifice of scientific rigor. Applied research presents a unique set of challenges that vary with context. This article discusses these challenges along with possible solutions.


Examples are drawn from an ongoing, longitudinal Roybal Center study of driving competence that is being conducted in Department of Motor Vehicles field sites. The challenges faced at each stage of the project are discussed.


Methodological issues include identifying field collaborators, approaching administrators with the research proposal, producing a battery that is manageable and acceptable while maintaining scientific merit, training indigenous personnel to administer this battery, introducing the research and consenting potential participants, and managing large data sets offsite. Additional issues include quality control, the importance of distinguishing between individuals who consent and those who decline participation, and the collection of follow-up data via telephone.


The use of field research in changing public perceptions, medical practice, and public policy is discussed.

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