A ‘RECIPE’ with example principles and strategies for research partnerships

Femke Hoekstra, SCI Guiding Principles Consensus Panel and Heather L. Gainforth

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Principles and related strategies for spinal cord injury research partnership approaches: a qualitative study

How can we improve the use of research findings in policy, community and service settings? The answer could be simple: do research together with people that will use and can benefit from the research. In other words, do research in partnership with research users. While this sounds promising, building and maintaining meaningful partnerships is rarely so simple. Tokenistic approaches to research partnerships are a particular risk – this happens when research users are asked to endorse a research project over which they have little control.

To avoid such tokenism and instead foster meaningful engagement, spinal cord injury (SCI) researchers, research users and funders called for evidence-based tools and resources to guide partnerships. In response, we conducted an interview study about partnership principles and related strategies for conducting and disseminating SCI research in partnership. Our findings, published in Evidence & Policy, provide guidance for researchers and research users around engaging in research partnerships. More specifically, this blog provides a ‘RECIPE’ with example principles and related strategies from our article to help researchers and research users who want to engage in research partnerships, within and outside SCI research.

What are partnership principles and strategies?

Principles are fundamental norms, rules, or beliefs, and can help you in determining the rightfulness or wrongfulness of your actions. Strategies are the observable actions. A partnership includes at least one researcher and at least one research user. Depending on the research topic, research users can be people with lived experiences, policy- or decision-makers, community organisations, and/or service providers.

A ‘RECIPE’ with example principles and related strategies

We describe a variety of example principles that can be used to support research partnerships. These principles were identified from interviews with SCI research partnership champions. We found that participants mainly talked about principles related to:

  • The relationship between researchers and research users
  • Co-production of knowledge
  • Meaningful research user engagement

We then looked for strategies linked to these identified principles. We grouped the strategies into six categories, which we abbreviated as ‘RECIPE’:

  • Resources and time
  • Engagement strategies in the research process
  • Communication activities and methods
  • Initiatives for collaborative meetings, conferences, and/or events
  • Partnership initiation and representation
  • Education and training

The table below shows a short version of our key findings. The table includes a list of example principles with checkmarks for each strategy category that was linked to that principle. To  illustrate, we identified a variety of strategies from all six RECIPE categories that were linked to the principle  Build and maintain relationships based on respect, trust and credibility. In contrast, we found only strategies from the category Resources and time that were linked to the principle Partners acknowledge that the collaborative research activities take (additional) time and add complexity. By linking strategies to principles, we may help researchers and their partners on how to work more meaningfully together.

Table 1: A short version of identified example principles and relates strategy categories.

Notes: Partners include researchers and research users. This is a short version of the table. The full version of the table is published in Evidence & Policy. The supplementary files includes example strategies and illustrating quotes and is available via https://osf.io/r43zm.

Putting the findings into practice: The IKT Guiding Principles

This study informed the co-creation process of the first Integrated Knowledge Translation (IKT) Guiding Principles for Conducting and Disseminating Spinal Cord Injury Research in Partnerships (www.IKTprinciples.com). Our findings will also help support the use of these new IKT Guiding Principles by researchers and research users.


You can read the original research in Evidence & Policy:

Hoekstra, F., SCI Guiding Principles Consensus Panel, Gainforth, H.L. (2021). Principles and related strategies for spinal cord injury research partnership approaches: a qualitative study. Evidence & Policy. DOI: 10.1332/174426421X16161715996124.

Supplementary files with examples principles and strategies are available via: https://osf.io/r43zm/ 


Image credit: Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash


If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also be interested to read:

Mobilising knowledge in public health: reflections on ten years of collaborative working in Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health

Processes and practices for building strong collaborative research partnerships: lessons learned from the Locally-Driven Collaborative Projects programme

Fragile alliances: culture, funding and sustainability in police‐academic partnerships

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