Background: Joining the domains of practice, research and policy is an important aspect of boosting the quality performance required to tackle complex public health problems. "Joining domains" implies a departure from the linear and technocratic knowledge-translation approach. Integrating the practice, research and policy triangle means knowing its elements, appreciating the barriers, identifying possible cooperation strategies and studying strategy effectiveness under specified conditions.This article examines the dynamic process of developing an Academic Collaborative Centre for Public Health in the Netherlands, with the objective of achieving that the three domains of policy, practice and research become working partners on an equal footing.
Method: An interpretative hermeneutic approach was used to interpret the phenomenon of collaboration at the nexus between the three domains. The project was explicitly grounded in current organizational culture and routines, applied to nexus action. In the process of examination, we used both quantitative (e.g. records) and qualitative data (e.g., interviews and observations). The data were interpreted using the Actor-Network, Institutional Re-Design and Blurring the Boundaries theories.
Results: Results show commitment at strategic level. At the tactical level, however, managers were inclined to prioritize daily routine, while the policy domain remained absent. At the operational level, practitioners learned to do PhD research in real-life practice and researchers became acquainted with problems of practice and policy, resulting in new research initiatives.
Conclusion: We conclude that working at the nexus is an ongoing process of formation and reformation. Strategies based on Institutional Re-Design theories in particular might help to more actively stimulate managers' involvement to establish mutually supportive networks.