A pilot project to create partnerships between academic and professional organizations to produce and disseminate systematic reviews

Article type
Hayward S, Hammond L, Hebert M
Introduction/Objective: In 1997, the Dissemination Program of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research in Edmonton, Canada, initiated a project to produce and disseminate systematic reviews in partnership with three health professional associations, a consumers' association and three health faculties, in order to;

1. Provide reliable research evidence in response to a question driven by practitioners and consumers
2. Educate academic faculty and professional organizations about accessing and disseminating evidence
3. Facilitate long term relationships between the research community and the community of users

Methods: The project provided library services and communications as well as reimbursement for authors and faculty. Recruitment, training, conduct, publication, external review and dissemination planning occurred within 8 months. There were 15 participants in 4 teams, representing 3 provincial professional associations and a seniors' advocacy organization. Participants levels of education and research experience ranged from high-school to doctoral level. Research questions were selected though consultation with the associations' membership. Systematic review training occurred through three 2-day workshops over 3 months, with follow-up consultation. The lead instructor was chosen for expertise in health research synthesis and research dissemination. Reviews were submitted to three external reviewers prior to dissemination.

Results: and observations (formal evaluation analysis in progress):

* All teams completed a systematic review. Three were considered good quality. One was rejected on first review.
* Participants reported having acquired skills and an understanding of the challenges of acquiring good evidence.
* Participants' ability to participate fully was dependent on prior research knowledge and experience.
* The maximum time required by a lead author was 403 hours to complete the review.
* Two faculty members established courses or graduate thesis options in their faculties within a year.
* Three of the four host organizations initiated active dissemination strategies within a year.
* A key difficulty was faced in interpreting results in the context of complex political agendas bearing on the project.
* Credibility of the lead instructor with the group and the services of a research librarian were critical to success.

Discussion: Hands-on experience can teach neophytes, including those outside the research community, systematic review methods. Adequate resources are essential but likely to be beyond the capacity of most organizations. Management of the political implications of research was required throughout the project.