Translating evidence into practice: a shared priority in public health?

Soc Sci Med. 2010 May;70(10):1492-500. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.01.038. Epub 2010 Feb 18.


Translational and transdisciplinary research is needed to tackle complex public health problems. This article has three aims. Firstly, to determine how academics and non-academics (practitioners, policy makers and community workers) identified with the goals of the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health in Northern Ireland and how their attitudes varied in terms of knowledge brokerage and translation. Secondly, to map and analyse the network structure of the public health sector and the placement of the Centre within this. Thirdly, to aggregate responses from members of the network by work setting to construct the trans-sectoral network and devise the Root Mean Sum of Squares to determine the quality and potential value of connections across this network. The analysis was based on data collected from 98 individuals who attended the launch of the Centre in June 2008. Analysis of participant expectations and personal goals suggests that the academic members of the network were more likely to expect the work of the Centre to produce new knowledge than non-academics, but less likely to expect the Centre to generate health interventions and influence health policy. Academics were also less strongly oriented than non-academics to knowledge transfer as a personal goal, though more confident that research findings would be diffused beyond the immediate network. A central core of five nodes is crucial to the overall configuration of the regional public health network in Northern Ireland, with the Centre being well placed to exert influence within this. Though the overall network structure is fairly robust, the connections between some component parts of the network--such as academics and the third sector--are unidirectional. Identifying these differences and core network structure is key to translational and transdisciplinary research. Though exemplified in a regional study, these techniques are generalisable and applicable to many networks of interest: public health, interdisciplinary research or organisational involvement and stakeholder linkage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine* / organization & administration
  • Health Priorities*
  • Humans
  • Northern Ireland
  • Public Health*
  • Research
  • Social Support
  • Translational Medical Research* / organization & administration