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TRE TIG Week: Why Evaluators Should Learn about Implementation Science and Research by Adrienne Zell

Adrienne Zell

I am Adrienne Zell, Incoming Chair of the AEA Translational Research Evaluation TIG, and a Co-Director of the Evaluation Core at Oregon Health and Science University.

Over the last 10 years, the rapidly evolving field of Implementation Research has made significant contributions to our understanding of the translation of evidence-based interventions (EBI) from demonstration, or pilot, sites into practice settings and communities. Targeted funding opportunities encourage research into EBI translation, while implementation science journals and conferences provide avenues for dissemination of findings.

Implementation research tests the effectiveness of specific mechanisms, including administrative, behavioral, and financial activities, on successful implementation of EBIs. Implementation study designs may be strictly observational, or they may manipulate one or more mechanisms and test their effects in different settings. Implementation studies typically include both quantitative and qualitative data collection and use standard behavioral research and evaluation tools such as surveys, key informant interviews, and social network analysis. Implementation science develops and tests new frameworks, designs, tools, and methodologies for use in implementation research.

As evaluators, we often conduct assessments of implementation barriers, enablers, and strategies. These assessments allow us to gather information that will help us better understand variations in intervention outcomes. Examples of evaluation approaches that are complementary to implementation research include process evaluation, formative evaluation, developmental evaluation, fidelity measurement, cost analyses, and collaborative evaluation. In fact, most evaluators regularly engage in implementation research activities. Furthermore, evaluators who develop and test new methods in formative and process evaluation are contributing to implementation science.

Hot Tip: Why should evaluators learn more about implementation research and science?

  • We are already engaging in implementation research and science and can learn from the growing body of implementation literature that emphasizes practical and practice-oriented approaches to studying the translation of EBIs.
  • We should partner with implementation scientists and researchers. Implementation researchers can provide expertise in rigorous methods of assessing implementation, allowing for greater confidence when including implementation variables in our outcomes models.
  • We should work with our implementation research partners to disseminate implementation research methods and findings through evaluation portals such as AEA. Currently, very few AEA abstracts reference implementation or dissemination research or science.

How can evaluators learn more about implementation research and science?

Rad Resources:

  • The work of Tabak and others on synthesizing models for dissemination and implementation research can introduce evaluators to commonly used implementation frameworks.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Translational Research Evaluation (TRE) TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the TRE Topical Interest Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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