What you measure affects what you do. If you don’t measure the right thing, you don’t do the right thing – Joseph Stiglitz, 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
For decades it has been recognized that many outputs from health and medical research that could make positive contributions, have not translated and, hence, do not impact on policy, practice or the community. This blockage in the translational pipeline is also apparent at the point where research is designed. There is evidence showing research being conducted that has not considered the evidence established in earlier trials.
Sub-optimal translation also means that returns on research investments are potentially lower than expected. One contributor has been the historic focus on measuring academic outputs, such as peer reviewed papers, as a proxy for ‘research impact’. While these outputs are important milestones to impact, making them the measure of research success focusses attention on ‘outputs’ rather than ‘impacts’. From an economic perspective impact is generated when those outputs are used by an ‘end user’ such as a clinical group – creating the potential for real impacts to be generated.
To address this issue, the health economics team from HMRI have developed the Framework to Assess Impact from Translational health research (FAIT) to prospectively measure and encourage research translation and impact. The FAIT platform is based on a modified program logic model and three proven methods for measuring impact, namely a modified Payback method, social return on investment, and case studies. A paper on FAIT has been published: Searles et al. Health Research Policy and Systems (2016) 14:60. DOI 10.1186/s12961-016-0131-2
FAIT is currently being implemented within the CRE by A/Prof Andrew Searles and Post Doctoral Fellow, Shanthi Ramanathan. A modified program logic model has been developed and work is currently underway to build a data collection strategy for the key impact metrics. Together with Elizabeth Lynch from the Implementation Stream, Shanthi recently interviewed CRE researchers about the impacts they anticipate, potential end users and barriers to the translation and implementation of their research. It is hoped that FAIT will help encourage greater translation and impact across all CRE research streams.