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Developing and evaluating an online community of practice for public health decision-makers

Project Description

In our previous CLAHRC research, decision-makers described a lack of dialogue between evidence synthesisers and public health practitioners. This interrupted a flow of evidence into decision-making, and increased the risk that opportunities where evidence could make a vital contribution to decision-making were being missed. Evidence synthesisers, and researchers more broadly, have little awareness of the timing of public health decision-makers’ needs, and may produce evidence that is out of synch with opportunities when it would be most useful. This increases the potential for research wastage and potentially means poorer decisions being reached.
The aim of the project is to investigate a community of practice approach for public health practitioners and researchers to share information. Communities of Practice are self-organising and self-governing groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems or a passion about their field and strive, through collaboration, to become better practitioners. The use of a Community of Practice approach to bridge gulfs between Public Health Practitioners and Researchers working in academia is a relatively novel approach, and moreover, the effectiveness of the approach in increasing the effective production and use of public health evidence for influencing decision-making is not fully understood.

The main objectives of this project are: (i) develop a Public Health Practitioner panel that convenes and shares information online with researchers; (ii) develop metrics to evaluate the impact of a community of practice; (iii) evaluate the impact of a community of practice in promoting the uptake of research evidence.

In previous work, we have found that communities of practice are a promising route for implementing guidance and evidence, although the impact within public health is unknown. This project will develop a Public Health Practitioner panel as a small online community of practice, where public health practitioners working in local areas could help us to further understand their evidence needs on an ongoing basis, and could describe ongoing issues around the implementation or incorporation of evidence into decision-making. Such a forum could also form the basis for sharing best practice around the use, identification or collection of evidence. This would also include organising an annual face-to-face workshop to provide further training on using and interpreting research evidence.

All candidates should hold a Master’s qualification (or complete their Master’s by September 2019) in an appropriate discipline and have a minimum of a 2:1 or equivalent in their first degree. Applicants should preferably have knowledge of the UK health and care system. All applicants are required to have excellent written and verbal communication skills. They should also be willing to work collaboratively in multi-disciplinary and multi-professional teams.

Project-specific skills and experience required

Mixed methods evaluation skills
Networking / communication beyond academia
Experience of working on public health research
Experience working with external stakeholders


For general enquiries, please email:
For project specific queries, please contact: Prof James Thomas:


For applications and other information please visit our main NIHR CLAHRC North Thames funded PhD studentships page:

Interviews for this study will be held on Wednesday 24 April 2019

CLAHRC Research area: Health Economics and Data

How good is research at University College London in Education?
Institute of Education

FTE Category A staff submitted: 219.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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