Insights from a pilot multi-phase study to increase researchers' engagement in the Italian scientiﬁc research and treatment institutes (IRCCS)
Topic: Research information systems (CRIS)
Research engagement is the interaction between researchers and research end-users and/or partners. Decision-makers and scientists have paid little attention to define strategies for increasing research engagement in Countries of Southern Europe, such as Italy.
In Italy, research activities in healthcare are mainly performed by the Scientiﬁc Research and Treatment Institutes (named as IRCCS from the Italian acronym of these organisations). IRCCS hospitals represent the excellence of the Italian research and healthcare system with high standards of health research and staﬀ training. Regardless of their public or private nature or their aﬃliations with local Universities, IRCCS hospitals receive economic and practical recognitions only by the Italian Ministry of Health. Currently, 51 hospitals obtained recognition as IRCCS hospitals in Italy, of which 21 are public and 30 private.
In this context, the General Directorate for Research and Innovation in Healthcare of the Italian Ministry of Health started to organise periodical round tables to map the activities and the speciﬁc needs of Senior Researchers and Junior Researchers within the network of IRCCS hospitals. The need to determine a strategy for enhancing the engagement of researchers was the rationale underpinning the round tables. Moreover, following the European strategies and recommendations, the Scientiﬁc Departments of IRCCS hospitals and the Grant Oﬃces (GO) also promoted initiatives to sustain research engagement in order to improve the strategic support of researchers in the design management and in the implementation of research activities.
This pilot and multi-phase study aimed at developing and initially validating a brief questionnaire to explore research engagement, providing an initial mono-centric description of the research engagement's levels, preliminary identifying clusters of researchers' engagement and identifying an initial theory-grounded framework for guiding future research endeavours in the field of research engagement in Italy. The developed questionnaire measured "Project-oriented engagement" and "Organisation-oriented engagement". Fifty researchers were enrolled. Among responders, two main clusters were identified: one with a trend of higher project-oriented engagement (characterised by a higher number of senior researchers), the other one with a slightly higher organisation-oriented engagement. A two-level framework was hypothesised to study the research engagement in future research, considering the theoretical interconnection between the individual-level engagement, its consequences and its organisational characteristics. Further research is required to provide an in-depth description of research engagement and its antecedents and outcomes.