Primary Health Care Research and Development

Original Article

The ‘Designated Research Team’ approach to building research capacity in primary care

Jo Cooke a1c1, Susan Nancarrow a1, Vicky Hammersley a2, Lisa Farndon a3 and Wesley Vernon a4
a1 Trent Research and Development Unit (formerly Trent Focus), The University of Sheffield, Portobello, Sheffield, UK
a2 Division of Community Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
a3 Podiatry Services, Sheffield South West Primary Care Trust, Sheffield, UK
a4 Sheffield South West PCT, Sheffield, UK

Article author query
cooke j   [Google Scholar] 
nancarrow s   [Google Scholar] 
hammersley v   [Google Scholar] 
farndon l   [Google Scholar] 
vernon w   [Google Scholar] 


Trent Focus, a Research and Development Support Unit, have introduced the ‘Designated Research Team’ (DRT) approach to building research capacity. This approach funds protected time to develop research ideas and skills for a team with limited research experience. This paper uses the example of a successful team of podiatry researchers to illustrate the approach to, and outcomes of, a DRT. It draws on documentary analysis of meeting notes and annual reports, and team members' views collected during a recorded reflective session of the team at the end of the funding period. The DRT were successful in achieving agreed outcomes, including completing the project, submitting and publishing in peer reviewed journals, and presenting at conferences. They were also able to attract further funding, and engage with international collaborations and research activity. The unique contribution of this paper is that it focuses on facilitating factors to building research capacity based on a practice example. These include: enabling protected time, effective managerial support, applied and timely research training at relevant levels to expertise, immediate access to supervision and mentorship, a critical mass of research expertise within the team, and an encouraging workplace environment. Importantly, research undertaken was seen as a means to improve practice and the status of the professional group. ‘Accessible’ academic support including outreach work and attitudes of the team members and supervisors towards teaching and learning were important. Process factors enabling success include the use of project management techniques, clear delegation of tasks, effective lines of communication and accountability, and high levels of social capital and commitment between team members. The paper highlights ways forward to using these facilitating factors to build further research capacity, and to use this approach to highlight other areas of research capacity outcome measures.

(Published Online October 31 2006)
(Received October 2004)
(Accepted January 2005)

Key Words: facilitating factors; podiatry; research capacity building; research teams; social capital.

c1 Address for correspondence: Jo Cooke, Trent Research and Development Unit, ICOSS Building, The University of Sheffield, 219 Portobello, Sheffield S1 4DP, UK. Email:

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