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The Future of Implementation Science

Posted on December 2, 2011

Brian Mittman (bio) shares his hopes that more effective implementation approaches are identified, pursued, and evaluated in the next few years.

 

By 2013, I would hope that all of us in the field of implementation science within health and the other sectors as well, will have adopted a much broader view of the kinds of research questions and methods and approaches that we need. And that we are, I hope, increasingly recognizing the limitations of some of the approaches that we tend to rely on too heavily.

And with that recognition comes an interest in identifying and learning about and beginning to apply and experiment with some alternative approaches and ways of exploring implementation processes and barriers and facilitators and mechanisms, alternative ways of studying and understanding those mechanisms and processes, and alternative ways of developing insights and guidance. So I think that's my major hope for the field and a hope for consequence and result or outcome of this meeting [2011 Global Implementation Conference], and the kinds of discussions that have occurred in bringing together researchers from different parts of the field.

The methods that are described go under the labels of theory-based evaluation, realistic evaluation, and other approaches, which recognize the dominance of mechanisms and processes as opposed to impacts and outcomes. For many of us, those ideas and approaches are a bit of a mystery. We've heard about them. We've read about them. Some of us have actually tried to explore in more detail what the methods mean and how to use them and have been somewhat disappointed that the kinds of straightforward or forward guidance and manuals and good models don't yet exist. So I think it remains a— well as I said, a bit of a mystery as to exactly how to go about studying these phenomena using these alternative approaches, but an attractive mystery in terms of the hope that there's some answers and some strategies that would prove beneficial.

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Excerpted from interview with Dr. Mittman at the 2011 Global Implementation Conference in Washington, DC.

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