Professor Ross Brownson, from Washington University in St Louis, says researchers often believe the proverbial “field of dreams” applies to health and medical research.

“Researchers are as guilty of this as anyone,” he said. “They assume that if we build it - develop a new intervention or clinical practice - people will automatically come and use it.”

“But the reality is that only 14 per cent of original clinical evidence results in benefits to patients and populations. The rest is the victim of our very leaky pipeline of research translation.”

Professor Brownson made the comments during his keynote address to Sydney Health Partners’ third annual Implementation Science symposium Unlocking Innovation, which attracted a capacity crowd to the Kerry Packer Education Centre in Sydney on October 21.

The Symposium heard how the translation of healthcare innovations can be enhanced for the benefit of patients and the public, and how Sydney Health Partners (SHP) is working towards this goal.

With the support of the University of Sydney, SHP is fostering the relatively new research discipline of Implementation Science as part of its broader work to translate research into better health outcomes.

The leaders of the University of Sydney, the Sydney, Northern Sydney and Western Sydney Local Health Districts and the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network were amongst a powerhouse gathering at the Symposium, who discussed the scale-up and spread of novel, evidence-based interventions across health systems, and how health care professionals embrace change.

The Acting Chief Executive of the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, Adjunct Associate Professor Cheryl McCullagh, said there should be even more clinicians involved in research translation.

“Every clinician needs to be researcher and implementer,” she said, “and we need to think about a different structure of health service delivery to create an environment which allows us to try different things.”

Professor Fiona Coyer, a Conjoint Professor of Nursing at the Queensland University of Technology, delivered a keynote presentation about a research implementation which had largely eliminated pressure injuries amongst patients of the Emergency Department at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

She said research should be designed with “translation built in.”

“We find we have far more impact when clinicians are engaged from the outset in identifying the strategies for implementation and we have multidisciplinary team engagement – including nursing and allied health colleagues.”

The University of Sydney’s Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health, Professor Robyn Ward, said the Symposium had been a “reminder of how important the enthusiasm and creativity of individuals is in the translation of research.”

Panel members debated how to strike a balance between implementing existing evidence that can transform health care now, versus undertaking research into “the shiny new thing.”

“We know more than enough about what the causes of lack of health are,” Professor Brownson told the Symposium.

“Implementation Science is about trying to make a difference using what we already know, and applying the knowledge we already have,” he said.

The following day, forty members of the SHP community met at a small-group workshop with Professor Brownson to explore international Implementation Science education and training models as part of SHP’s capacity-building activities in this emerging discipline.

The learnings from the workshop will inform SHP’s upcoming Implementation Science Masterclass, to be held in November. For more information about the workshop, please contact