Measuring allied health research capacity: A follow up study

Dr Tilley Pain1,2, Dr Malindu Fernando2,3

1Townsville Hospital And Health Service, Townsville, Australia, 2James Cook University, Townsville, Australia, 3Queensland Univesity of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Australia

Research capacity building of AHPs has increased over the last several years. The reasons for building capacity include: to raise the profile of allied health research; to promote the role of allied health in health service efficiency; and to build the professional status of allied health. This study determined if research experience increased among allied health professionals (AHPs) at a regional tertiary hospital following a research capacity building initiative.

A cross sectional electronic survey was used to collect data from AHPs on their research experience, research support needs, enablers and barriers to research and their perceptions regarding benefits of research. A baseline survey was conducted in 2011 which was compared to a follow up survey in 2015. Comparison of variables between the two surveys used Chi squared tests.

The response rate for the 2011 survey was 43% (n=248) while the 2015 survey achieved a 37% response rate (n=234). There was a significant increase in AHP research experience as well as need for research support between the 2011 and 2015 surveys in many (but not all) activities on the research continuum. This study demonstrates a significant increase in AHP research experience over the four years of capacity building. However, the increase has not reached the level where it is recorded by traditional research outcome measures such as publication. The greatest barrier to allied health professionals conducting research is time. Therefore, investment in clinician-researcher career pathways may increase research capacity of allied health practitioners to increase publication output.

This study demonstrated AHPs have increased research experience but have insufficient time to perform it. Despite the increase in experience, the level of research activity has not reached the threshold of traditional measures of research output: publications; and successful grants. The introduction of researcher-clinician career pathways may overcome barriers to research.

Allied professionals work in primary, acute and community care. Their research profile is unlikely to increase without significant input of time or resources to allow them to conduct research.


Tilley is the Research Fellow at Townsville HHS for all allied health professionals and Health Practitioners. Her role is to build research capacity, conduct her own research and to mentor/supervise allied health conducting research or higher degrees. Tilley’s background was as a medical laboratory scientist. She was awarded a PhD in cardiac physiology and has worked in the UK and US. Fields she has worked in include primary care, remote health, clinical and bench research – demonstrating a breadth of experience useful for assisting the 14 different allied health professions she supports in Townsville. Her research interests include research about research and early intervention strategies (specifically for mild cognitive impairment).

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2009, Canberra (8th NAHC)

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2013, Brisbane (10th NAHC)

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