Objectives Though multidisciplinary research networks support the practice and effectiveness of continuous quality improvement (CQI) programmes, their characteristics and development are poorly understood. In this study, we examine publication outputs from a research network in Australian Indigenous primary healthcare (PHC) to assess to what extent the research network changed over time.
Setting Australian CQI research network in Indigenous PHC from 2002 to 2019.
Participants Authors from peer-reviewed journal articles and books published by the network.
Design Coauthor networks across four phases of the network (2002–2004; 2005–2009; 2010–2014; 2015–2019) were constructed based on author affiliations and examined using social network analysis methods. Descriptive characteristics included organisation types, Indigenous representation, gender, student authorship and thematic research trends.
Results We identified 128 publications written by 308 individual authors from 79 different organisations. Publications increased in number and diversity over each funding phase. During the final phase, publication outputs accelerated for organisations, students, project officers, Indigenous and female authors. Over time there was also a shift in research themes to encompass new clinical areas and social, environmental or behavioural determinants of health. Average degree (8.1), clustering (0.81) and diameter (3) indicated a well-connected network, with a core-periphery structure in each phase (p≤0.03) rather than a single central organisation (degree centralisation=0.55–0.65). Academic organisations dominated the core structure in all funding phases.
Conclusion Collaboration in publications increased with network consolidation and expansion. Increased productivity was associated with increased authorship diversity and a decentralised network, suggesting these may be important factors in enhancing research impact and advancing the knowledge and practice of CQI in PHC. Publication diversity and growth occurred mainly in the fourth phase, suggesting long-term relationship building among diverse partners is required to facilitate participatory research in CQI. Despite improvements, further work is needed to address inequities in female authorship and Indigenous authorship.
- health policy
- primary care
- quality in health care
Data availability statement
Data are available on reasonable request. The data set is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request and if consistent with the projects’s ethics approvals.
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Contributors Study conceptualisation: JB, BAP, RSB, DP
Data curation: JB, BAP, RSB
Formal analysis: BAP, JB
Data interpretation: JB, BAP, AFL, SA, RSB, FCC, VM, RGB, KPC, MEP, DP
Funding acquistion for study: RSB, JB
Methodology: JB, BAP, FCC, RSB, DP
Project administration: JB
Supervision: DP, FCC
Data visualisation: JB, BAP
Writing - original draft: JB, BAP
Writing, criticial intellectual input & review: JB, BAP, AFL, SA, RSB, VM, RGB, KPC, MEP, DP
Funding The National Health and Medical Research Council (www.nhmrc.gov.au) funded the Centre for Research Excellence in Integrated Quality Improvement (#1078927). In-kind support has been provided by a range of community-controlled and government agencies.
Competing interests The authors declare that this research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Author note RSB was the chief investigator of the research network from 2002 to 2019. RSB, JB, VM, AFL, FCC, RB and AFL had published five or more publications as part of this research network. RGB and VM are both Indigenous researchers: RB is from the Gungarri/Kunja nations in South-Western Queensland and VM from the Quandamooka community on North Stradbroke Island, Queensland. JB, BAP, RSB, DP, AFL, SA, KPC, MEP and FCC are non-Indigenous researchers. All authors have a long-standing commitment to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
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