This page provides further information on the design framework ‘Proximity’ theme, including the background and supporting material, and the development process.


Background and supporting material

We identified researcher ‘proximity’ as a key structural feature across our identified initiatives. As with ‘scale’, we found that ‘proximity’ played out in three distinct ways: through physical location, intensity, and visibility. As such, this theme does not refer to how close different partners are to one another, but the ways in which various types of proximity are manifest in the structural features of an initiative.

Whilst being seen as a key enabler of embedded research, the physical location of the researcher was variable across initiatives and was not always a straightforward decision. Initiatives comprising a portfolio of projects, or which were more emergent in nature, for instance, faced decisions about where and with whom the researchers should be located, what spaces they would have access to and whether they would be working at a single location or across multiple spaces.

The contextually-dependent and complex nature of physical proximity was mirrored in arrangements around the intensity of contact between the researcher and those in the health setting. This was also highly variable across initiatives with the documents we gathered showing that the proportion of researcher time to be spent in the health setting ranged from 20% to 100%. Regardless of these documented expectations, the intensity of contact between researchers and those in the health setting tended to be variable over time. Both our interviewees and workshop participants suggested a need for greater intensity towards the start of an initiative as relationships were being formed and expectations agreed.

The sub-theme of ‘visibility’ is related to the physical location of the researcher and their intensity of contact but is not merely the result of these structural features. Visibility is instead more nuanced, and speaks to the profile of the researcher(s) and their embedded research work and the extent to which they are known and well-regarded within the healthcare organisation as well as further afield.

“My role has changed quite a bit, so I’m becoming more visible… a lot of introductions from more senior members of staff…”  – Embedded researcher interview

Visibility, then, is a function of the informal, relational work carried out by the researcher and the structural, formal features of an initiative, as well as the import or impact of their activities.

Development and adaptation process

This theme originally included two sub-themes – location of researcher and intensity of contact. During the workshop this theme prompted discussion around the metaphor of balancing different imperatives and tensions. On reflection, we reasoned that these discussions more closely related to participants experiences of belonging, so decided to use the majority of these insights when adapting other themes (e.g. belonging, functional activities).

Workshop participants did, however, reflect on the importance of identifying who/which groups and levels of the organisation the researcher(s) would be proximal to and of considering the visibility of the researcher within the practice setting. As a result, we added a third sub-theme and included these insights in our description of the design theme and sub-themes.