Allied Health Research Fellows enhance clinicians’ research engagement: an explanatory realist review

Professor  Sharon Mickan1,2, Dr Rachel Wenke1,2, Dr Kelly Weir1,2, Dr Christy Noble1,2, Professor Andrea Bialocerkowski2

1Gold Coast Health , Southport, Australia, 2Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Australia


Allied Health Professionals report positive attitudes to using research evidence in clinical practice, yet often lack time, confidence and skills to engage in research. Embedded research positions in healthcare organisations can influence individual and team-based research skills and research participation.

An exploratory mixed methods study was conducted to evaluate and explain how Allied Health Research Fellows used knowledge brokering activities to facilitate research engagement by allied health clinicians.


We chose a realist evaluation methodology to explore and explain how three Research Fellows used ten key knowledge brokering activities to support twenty-one research interested clinicians to participate in and lead clinical research projects. Each Research Fellow was interviewed by an independent researcher at three, seven and twelve months during this study to describe and justify their tailored evidence-based interventions. Using content analysis, we summarised the patterns of use of ten key knowledge brokering activities. Thematic analysis was used with learning and behaviour change theories to understand and explain key mechanisms supporting clinician engagement in research.


All ten knowledge brokering activities were utilised, with differing patterns and explanations used within and between research projects. Research fellows described integrating each clinician’s level of engagement, skill set, motivation and trust to engage in research, at multiple times with the clinical research project to structure individualised research support.

The key outcome was continued clinician engagement in research activities for a minimum of twelve months.


Research fellows described a dynamic process of understanding, supporting and facilitating clinicians, around a research project in a specific clinical context. With greater levels of research engagement, clinicians can more actively engage in research to inform their practice, which may positively impact the quality of patient care.


I have recently been recruited as a Professor of Healthcare Innovation at Bond University. In this new position, I will lead a new master’s program collaboratively between the Institute for Evidence-Based Healthcare and Bond Business School. Between 2015 and 2019, I worked at Griffith University in a Professor of Allied Health conjoint position with Gold Coast Health. In this inaugural conjoint position, I actively facilitate clinicians’ research engagement and built a positive research culture. I integrated my expertise in knowledge translation, evidence-based healthcare and interprofessional education to design, implement and evaluate multiple initiatives, including allied health research fellows, knowledge brokering strategies, evidence-informed journal clubs and clinical backfill grants.

NAHC Conferences

2007, Hobart (7th NAHC)

2009, Canberra (8th NAHC)

2012, Canberra (9th NAHC)

2013, Brisbane (10th NAHC)

2015, Melbourne (11th NAHC)

2017, Sydney (12th NAHC)

2019, Brisbane (13th NAHC)

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