The struggle of translating science into action: foundational concepts of implementation science

Frances Rapport*, Robyn Clay-Williams, Kate Churruca, Patti Shih, Anne Hogden, Jeffrey Braithwaite

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Rationale, aims, and objectives: "Implementation science," the scientific study of methods translating research findings into practical, useful outcomes, is contested and complex, with unpredictable use of results from routine clinical practice and different levels of continuing assessment of implementable interventions. The authors aim to reveal how implementation science is presented and understood in health services research contexts and clarify the foundational concepts: diffusion, dissemination, implementation, adoption, and sustainability, to progress knowledge in the field. Method: Implementation science models, theories, and frameworks are critiqued, and their value for laying the groundwork from which to implement a study's findings is emphasised. The paper highlights the challenges of turning research findings into practical outcomes that can be successfully implemented and the need for support from change agents, to ensure improvements to health care provision, health systems, and policy. The paper examines how researchers create implementation plans and what needs to be considered for study outputs to lead to sustainable interventions. This aspect needs clear planning, underpinned by appropriate theoretical paradigms that rigorously respond to a study's aims and objectives. Conclusion: Researchers might benefit from a return to first principles in implementation science, whereby applications that result from research endeavours are both effective and readily disseminated and where interventions can be supported by appropriate health care personnel. These should be people specifically identified to promote change in service organisation, delivery, and policy that can be systematically evaluated over time, to ensure high-quality, long-term improvements to patients' health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-126
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice
Issue number1
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Evidence-based health care and policy
  • Health services research
  • Implementable research findings
  • Implementation science


Dive into the research topics of 'The struggle of translating science into action: foundational concepts of implementation science'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this