Facilitators and Challenges to Conducting Interdisciplinary Research

Medical Care (Impact Factor: 3.23). 04/2013; 51(4):S23-S31. DOI: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e31827dc3c9


Complex, interconnected issues challenge the United States health care system and the patients and families it serves. System fragmentation, limited resources, rigid disciplinary boundaries, institutional culture, ineffective communication, and uncertainty surrounding health policy legislation are contributing to suboptimal care delivery and patient outcomes.

These problems are too complex to be solved by a single discipline. Interdisciplinary research affords the opportunity to examine and solve some of these problems from a more integrative perspective using innovative and rigorous methodological designs.

In this paper, we explore lessons learned from exemplars funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative.

The discussion is framed using an adaptation of the Interdisciplinary Research Model to evaluate improvements in individual health outcomes, health systems, and health policy. Barriers and facilitators to designing, conducting, and translating interdisciplinary research are discussed. Implications for health system and policy changes, including the need to provide funding mechanisms to implement interdisciplinary processes in both research and clinical practice, are provided.

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    ABSTRACT: Background: In Honduras, research capacity strengthening (RCS) has not received sufficient attention, but an increase in research competencies would enable local scientists to advance knowledge and contribute to national priorities, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Objective: This project aimed at strengthening research capacity in infectious diseases in Honduras, focusing on the School of Microbiology of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH). The primary objective was the creation of a research-based graduate program for the continued training of researchers. Parallel objectives included institutional strengthening and the facilitation of partnerships and networks. Methods: Based on a multi-stakeholder consultation, an RCS workplan was designed and undertaken from 2007 to 2012. Due to unexpected adverse circumstances, the first 2 years were heavily dedicated to implementing the project's flagship, an MSc program in infectious and zoonotic diseases (MEIZ). In addition, infrastructure improvements and demand-driven continuing education opportunities were facilitated; biosafety and research ethics knowledge and practices were enhanced, and networks fostering collaborative work were created or expanded. Results: The project coincided with the peak of UNAH's radical administrative reform and an unprecedented constitutional crisis. Challenges notwithstanding, in September 2009, MEIZ admitted the first cohort of students, all of whom undertook MDG-related projects graduating successfully by 2012. Importantly, MEIZ has been helpful in expanding the School of Microbiology's traditional etiology-based, disciplinary model to infectious disease teaching and research. By fulfilling its objectives, the project contributed to a stronger research culture upholding safety and ethical values at the university. Conclusions: The resources and strategic vision afforded by the project enhanced UNAH's overall research capacity and its potential contribution to the MDGs. Furthermore, increased research activity and the ensuing improvement in performance indicators at the prime Honduran research institution invoke the need for a national research system in Honduras.
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