Article Text

Original research
Collaboration and knowledge generation in an 18-year quality improvement research programme in Australian Indigenous primary healthcare: a coauthorship network analysis
  1. Jodie Bailie1,2,
  2. Boyd Alexander Potts1,
  3. Alison Frances Laycock1,
  4. Seye Abimbola2,3,
  5. Ross Stewart Bailie1,
  6. Frances Clare Cunningham4,
  7. Veronica Matthews1,
  8. Roxanne Gwendalyn Bainbridge5,
  9. Kathleen Parker Conte1,6,
  10. Megan Elizabeth Passey1,
  11. David Peiris2,3
  1. 1University Centre for Rural Health, The University of Sydney, Lismore, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3The George Institute for Global Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  4. 4Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  5. 5School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, Central Queensland University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
  6. 6School of Public Health, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Ms Jodie Bailie; jodie.bailie{at}


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.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

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.

View Full Text

Supplementary materials

  • Supplementary Data

    This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.


  • Twitter @JodieBailie1, @@AlisonLaycock2, @@seyeabimbola, @@RossBailie, @@CunninghamF_C, @@DrVMatthews, @@DrRoxBainbridge, @@kpconte, @@davidpeiris

  • 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 ( 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.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.