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Research engagement and outcomes in public health and health services research in Australia.

ABSTRACT

To retrospectively explore research outcomes in Australian public health research and their relationship to full engagement with potential research users during the research process.A self-administered survey of all principal investigators (PIs) receiving research funds from one of three well-known research funding agencies. 'Research value' and 'research utility' were self-reported using fixed response sets. Associations between outcomes and 'full engagement' were examined.Our response rate (75.1%) yielded data for 187 research projects. For just over one-quarter (26.7%), 'research value' was rated 'very important' in terms of knowledge generation. The most common 'research utility' was 'continuing education' (27.3%) followed by 'policy formulation' (25.7%). While 66 (35.3%) projects engaged at least one potential research user group throughout 'full engagement', such an intertwined relationship between researchers and research users was not associated with research value (chi(2)=0.46, 1df, p=0.5) or research utility (chi(2)=2.19, 1df, p=0.14). There were no predictors of 'full engagement'. In just over a third of projects (34.8%), both part of the awarded grant and additional funding had been spent to promote research use.This snapshot demonstrates patchy research engagement between researchers and research users. Other academic groups were the most common partner for full engagement. In an evidence-based era, innovation in health research funding policy should be evaluated. As NHMRC embarks upon its 'Partnerships initiative' in 2009, we recommend a prospective approach to evaluation.