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Project Report

A modular approach to rural and remote research education: a project report

Submitted: 26 May 2015
Revised: 9 January 2016
Accepted: 14 February 2016
Published: 24 February 2016

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Author(s) : Schmidt DD, Kirby S.

David SchmidtSue Kirby

Citation: Schmidt DD, Kirby S.  A modular approach to rural and remote research education: a project report. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3609. Available: (Accessed 20 October 2017)


Introduction:  A lack of support structures in rural and remote Australia has led to limitations in the ability of health services to develop research skills in their staff and to conduct research within their organisations. Distance, limited access to research expertise and a lack of established research networks are examples of structural contributors to limited research training and research activity.
Methods:  To address this issue the Centre for Research Excellence in Rural and Remote Primary Health Care Research (CRE) established a Research Capacity Building Program (RCBP) in 2012. The program used a modular design built around hub sites at Alice Springs, Bendigo and Broken Hill. It sought to develop research skills in key health workers in collaboration with strategic primary healthcare (PHC) partners. These partners included health service organisations and federally funded networks designed to support the development of PHC. By training within the workplace and community, the program sought to develop research skills in novice researchers, with a view to building both individual and organisational capacity in health services research within their rural or remote environment. The RCBP was evaluated in late 2014. A survey was conducted using a combination of emailed paper questionnaires and phone surveys with trainees from the RCBP (n=8), the trainee’s workplace managers (n=4) and staff of the CRE involved in supervising RCBP trainees (n=8). Participants were asked about both the processes and outcomes of the RCBP. Research skill development was assessed using the research spider instrument, a validated tool for assessing research confidence. This report both describes the RCBP and details the evaluation of the RCBP.
Results:  This project has shown that in rural and remote Australia the use of collaborative processes and a decentralised capacity building research training model can develop research skills in rural or remote health workers and create potential for ongoing research activity. The RCBP produced measurable improvements in perceived research experience, with mean research spider scores improving from 2.2/5 (standard deviation 0.5) to 2.8/5 (standard deviation 0.5), a change that was significant (z=–2.8, p=0.005). Projects completed through the program matched well with organisational goals of the partner organisations. Completing trainees and partnering organisations both expressed interest in ongoing research activity. The program’s modular nature created local peer-support networks, with some additional cross-site collaboration.
Conclusions:  Partnering with PHC organisations created the potential for ongoing PHC research activity, with organisational and individual interest in further research. The challenge for policy makers is to build on this potential by providing ongoing support for local research training.

Key words: Australia, research capacity building, rural and remote health services, staff training.

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