Background: In the UK, most funding bodies now expect a commitment or effort on the part of grant holders to disseminate the findings of their research. The emphasis is on ensuring that publicly funded research is made available, can be used to support decision making, and ultimately improve the quality and delivery of healthcare provided. In this study, we aimed to describe the dissemination practices and impacts of applied and public health researchers working across the UK.
Methods: We conducted a survey of 485 UK-based principal investigators of publicly funded applied and public health research. Participants were contacted by email and invited to complete an online questionnaire via an embedded URL. Gift vouchers were given to all participants who completed the questionnaire. Four reminder emails were sent out to non-respondents at one, two, three, and four weeks; a fifth postal reminder was also undertaken.
Results: A total of 243/485 (50%) questionnaires were returned (232 completed, 11 declining to participate). Most researchers recognise the importance of and appear committed to research dissemination. However, most dissemination activity beyond the publishing of academic papers appears to be undertaken an ad hoc fashion. There is some evidence that access to dissemination advice and support may facilitate more policy interactions; though access to such resources is lacking at an institutional level, and advice from funders can be variable. Although a minority of respondents routinely record details about the impact of their research, when asked about impact in relation to specific research projects most were able to provide simple narrative descriptions.
Conclusions: Researchers recognise the importance of and appear committed to disseminating the findings of their work. Although researchers are focussed on academic publication, a range of dissemination activities are being applied albeit in an ad hoc fashion. However, what constitutes effective dissemination (in terms of impact and return on investment) remains unclear. Researchers need greater and clearer guidance on how best to plan, resource, and facilitate their dissemination activities.