New publication shares lessons learned from building international research partnership

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

group of 16 researchers standing and smiling

Collaborating across disciplines. Connecting between institutions on shared research. Partnerships in higher education are becoming increasingly important, but building meaningful and sustainable research partnerships can be logistically challenging. How do institutions avoid duplication of effort? What are the sources of funding available? What are the best strategies for long lasting engagement?

A paper published this week in Pharmacy documents how two institutions leveraged internal funding opportunities to build such a partnership. In 2017, Nancy Waite, Sherilyn Houle, and Richard Violette from the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy received an International Research Partnership Grant (IRPG) – funding offered by Waterloo’s Office of Research to support the initial formation of the IPIP – International Pharmacists-as-Immunizers Partnership, a collaboration with pharmacy practice researchers from around the world.

“Our researchers have studied the scope and outcomes of Canadian pharmacists as immunizers,” says Richard Violette, a researcher and one of the paper’s authors. “But different countries around the world are at different stages in this space and interesting research is being conducted. We wanted to capitalize on that global knowledge and bring a group of researchers together to meet and collaborate in person.”

The IRPG requires that the funds provided be matched by a partner intuition. In this case, the Waterloo researchers leveraged existing relationships with pharmacy researchers at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia. The result was a two-day workshop to discuss pharmacists-as-immunizers and related research from both a country-specific and global perspective. Twelve researchers and four graduate students gathered at the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy representing pharmacy practice research from five countries – Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

“We had an incredibly productive two days, but we quickly learned the importance of setting realistic expectations for what could be accomplished in our time frame,” says Violette. While one of the main objectives of the meeting was to conclude with the generation of concrete plans for international research grants, the sharing of experiences and research was instead prioritized at this early stage of network formation.

“Research networks are more than just outputs and findings. There are important ‘human’ elements that, if neglected, can hinder productivity and lessen momentum. We believe this first meeting fostered the relationships required to support sustained collaboration, development and knowledge generation.”

The funding provided by the Office of Research was instrumental in creating a strong initial bond between institutions and individual researchers. By covering meeting costs, including travel costs for international attendees, it allowed the researchers to connect face-to-face, which engaged the researchers much more effectively and efficiently than virtual collaboration alone.

“Pharmacy practice is evolving worldwide, yet many researchers and policy-makers work within geographically defined silos,” reflects Violette. “This potentially results in duplication of effort, gaps in knowledge, and inefficiencies in how knowledge is disseminated and findings are interpreted. Leveraging funding from a university-provided grant helped us bring together a diverse and international group of researchers to identify and set out plans to overcome these challenges.”

The network of immunization researchers intends to meet again and continues to collaborate from their respective countries. Learn more about their process in the paper The International Pharmacists-as-Immunizers Partnership (IPIP)—Advancing Research on Pharmacist-Administered Immunizations Worldwide.

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