Embedded research design framework
Embedded research initiatives can have a range of underlying intents, or purposes. These can be thought of in two ways - the intended outcomes of the initiative and the nature of the power dynamics underlying the initiative.
Types and scale of knowledge
When considering the intended knowledge outcomes of an initiative it is important to consider the types and scale of knowledge that will be produced. Will the initiative primarily focus on generating insights from local practice (e.g. through local service evaluation, service improvement or practice development)? Or will it aim to develop generalizable or global knowledge that can be applied to different settings or organisations? Are there other types of knowledge that the initiative will generate? What is the scale of the problem or issue which the initiative is designed to tackle? Is it a complex issue which crosses multiple organisations, sectors or groups of people? Or is it relatively simple, well-defined and/or bounded? And what is the relationship between the knowledge which is to be produced and the business of the organisation? Is it core to the organisation’s main business, or is it on the periphery?
Capacity and capability
There is a range of capacity and capability outcomes that embedded research initiatives could be designed to bring about. Questions to consider include whose capability and capacity will be affected by the initiative - individual capacity, organisational capacity, system capacity? What types of capability and capacity will the initiative support – capacity to produce knowledge, to deliver services, to generate income? If an initiative is designed to increase capability and capacity, it is beneficial to spend some time considering precisely what this might mean for the different organisations and individuals involved.
The reputational benefits of an embedded research initiative are those that accrue to the organisations involved in the initiative. Markers of prestige and credibility will differ according to the organisations involved, but could include increased or continuing funding for research and/or service delivery, involvement in large-scale change or research projects or the number of publications. While this may not be the main intended outcome of an initiative, reputational benefits may be a significant emphasis for some.
Aspects of control
The first three of these elements concern the 'what' and the 'who' of an embedded research initiative. In terms of control, questions should be asked about which aspects of the initiative are going to be controlled, and by whom. The potential aspects of control can be identified using the other design themes in this framework, such as the types and scale of knowledge being produced (see intended outcomes), the location or space in which the embedded researchers operate (see proximity), the input and role of the researcher (see relational role) and any contractual arrangements (see belonging).
Types of contribution
Types of contribution focuses attention on who will contribute to the initiative and what their contribution will be. The various types of contribution can again be related to the other design themes, but could include knowledge or expertise, resources (human or financial) and the problem or issue which the initiative is designed to address.
'Intended beneficiaries' invites questions about who will benefit and what kinds of benefit they will gain from the initiative. Insights generated from considering the 'intended outcomes' theme are likely to be useful when considering this element.
Roles and relationships
Embedded research initiatives often have aspirations relating to their intended effect on roles and relationships between research and practice. There are a range of potential effects which an initiative could be designed to bring about. These include disrupting or reversing current roles and relationships, challenging current roles and relationships, rebalancing or equalising current roles and relationships and maintaining current roles and relationships. Each of these intended effects has significant implications for how other elements of an embedded research initiative are designed and implemented.