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Health Res Policy Syst. 2019 Jul 18;17(1):67. doi: 10.1186/s12961-019-0472-8.

An inductive exploration of the implementation knowledge of research funders.

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Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
KU Leuven Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Academic Centre for Nursing and Midwifery, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, Scientific Center for Quality of Healthcare, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



Healthcare research funders may undertake various roles to facilitate implementation of research findings. Their ability to enact such roles depends on several factors, knowledge of implementation being one essential requirement. However, previous studies do not assess the type or level of knowledge about implementation that research funders possess. This paper therefore presents findings from a qualitative, inductive study of the implementation knowledge of research funders. Three aspects of this knowledge are explored, namely how research funders define implementation, their level of self-assessed implementation knowledge and the factors influencing their self-assessment of implementation knowledge.


Research funders (n = 18) were purposefully selected from a sample of research funding organisations in Sweden (n = 10). In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted, recorded and transcribed verbatim. An inductive method using a systematic coding procedure was employed to derive the findings.


The research funders defined implementation as either an outcome or a process, with the majority believing that implementation of healthcare research results demands a process, although its complexity varied in the research funders' view. They perceived their own level of implementation knowledge as either limited or substantial, with a majority regarding it as limited. Clinical research experience, clinical experience and task relevance were singled out as the clearest factors affecting the self-assessment of their own implementation knowledge.


This study, the first to focus on implementation knowledge of research funders, demonstrates that they are a category of policy-makers who may possess knowledge, based on their previous professional experience, that is comparable to some important findings from implementation research. Consequently, the findings not only pinpoint the relevance of professional experience, but also reveal a lack of awareness and knowledge of the results of implementation research among research funders in charge of healthcare research.


Research policy; healthcare research; implementation; knowledge use; policy-maker; quality improvement; research funder

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