I first became involved in embedded research when trying to recruit a researcher in residence with one of our North West Coast partner universities.
Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in appointing, despite three rounds of recruitment and a national search. As soon as we appointed a candidate, their employing university or council offered them more money to stay and carry on being a researcher in residence in their current location. This gave me an indication of how in demand their skills were.
Having had a career spanning over 30 years in local government and the NHS, I could see how valuable researchers who are embedded into an organisation could be. They would be in prime position to see what was really going on, target research at the topics that could make a real difference to people’s lives and support teams to make evidence-based change so that consumers received a better service.
Fast forward a few years and I was part of a team of academic, service-based and PPI colleagues applying to NIHR for a research grant to study and support embedded research.
I’ve become more convinced that this is a really effective way to produce impactful research results.
We were successful in gaining a 30-month grant to review the emerging literature, write case studies and publish a suite of products so that organisations have readily available tools to appoint an embedded researcher.
Along the way we’ve formed a Network to support existing embedded researchers, who have tough jobs – being an integral part of a team but needing to stay independent to produce effective and meaningful research that has an impact. Following a consultation process, we will also write guidance for academics wanting to pursue an career in embedded research.
Over the lifetime of our programme, speaking to embedded researchers and studying the case studies, I’ve become more convinced that this is a really effective way to produce impactful research results.
We still don’t have an embedded researcher in our region but I’m determined that we’ll find one because I’m confident they will make our health and care systems more effective. I’m also sure that we’ll see a spread across the country and we’ll become part of a growing embedded research movement.
Liz Mear is Chief Executive of the Innovation Agency – the AHSN for the North West Coast.