Promises and pitfalls in implementation science from the perspective of US-based researchers: learning from a pre-mortem

Implement Sci. 2022 Aug 13;17(1):55. doi: 10.1186/s13012-022-01226-3.


Background: Implementation science is at a sufficiently advanced stage that it is appropriate for the field to reflect on progress thus far in achieving its vision, with a goal of charting a path forward. In this debate, we offer such reflections and report on potential threats that might stymie progress, as well as opportunities to enhance the success and impact of the field, from the perspective of a group of US-based researchers.

Main body: Ten mid-career extramurally funded US-based researchers completed a "pre-mortem" or a group brainstorming exercise that leverages prospective hindsight to imagine that an event has already occurred and to generate an explanation for it - to reduce the likelihood of a poor outcome. We came to consensus on six key themes related to threats and opportunities for the field: (1) insufficient impact, (2) too much emphasis on being a "legitimate science," (3) re-creation of the evidence-to-practice gap, (4) difficulty balancing accessibility and field coherence, (5) inability to align timelines and priorities with partners, and (6) overly complex implementation strategies and approaches.

Conclusion: We submit this debate piece to generate further discussion with other implementation partners as our field continues to develop and evolve. We hope the key opportunities identified will enhance the future of implementation research in the USA and spark discussion across international groups. We will continue to learn with humility about how best to implement with the goal of achieving equitable population health impact at scale.

Keywords: Implementation science; Opportunities; Pre-mortem exercise; Threats.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Implementation Science*
  • Professional Practice Gaps*
  • Prospective Studies