Two thirds of the way into data collection from embedded research initiatives and there is much to reflect on. In my first blog I reflected on how we had been struck by the complexity of the various embedded initiative case study sites, and the challenges of designing (and refining) the methodology needed in response to capture these differences.
These reflections on the complexity of embedded work have only been reaffirmed as data collection has progressed over the past few months.
We've continued to mould our approach, with the aim of utilising methods that seek to understand and explore the full depth and breadth of the roles. Much of the complexity has been, in part, down to the practical organisational differences between each case study site.
The set-up of each, including contractual arrangements, management structures, networks and the intricate relationships involved have offered much variety – brilliant for diverse insights, but a challenge for us to showcase – one size (still) does not fit all, methodologically speaking!
Most unifying in its importance is the ability to make research accessible to all – changing preconceived ideas and perceptions about what research is.
Although there are many clear differences between the case study sites and, to a degree, the work undertaken by the embedded researchers, there have also been some interesting and powerful similarities. One notable similarity relates to the characteristics, skill set and motivations of those involved, particularly the skill set of individual embedded researchers.
It is perhaps unsurprising that a set of unifying characteristics is present, but the degree to which these are seen as intrinsic to the actual success and sustainability of the role has been fascinating.
Acknowledging that we haven't yet finished data analysis, an embedded 'wanted ad' would so far include an extensive array of interpersonal and communication skills, including diplomacy, adaptability and resourcefulness. In addition to this already impressive set of skills, they have the ability to work closely with others and build a sense of companionship, team working and shared vision – across hierarchical and professional groups. As part of this, the embedded researcher has the ability to harness the talent and knowledge of others and drive forward research.
Most unifying in its importance is the ability to make research accessible to all – changing preconceived ideas and perceptions about what research is and who can be involved. The skill involved in breaking down the stigma attached to research was seen as universally important to the embedded role.
This observation was across our case study sites, breaking down one of many barriers to co-production. It also shows one of many ways that embedded researchers (and alike) are working to change research culture in NHS organisations and consequently bridge the gap between practice and academia.
Kate Kirk is a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, as well as a qualified nurse.