The Role of Embedded Research in Quality Improvement

North ThamesGeneric Health Relevance
Published Date: 31 Aug 2016


Embedded research is an approach where researchers work within and are affiliated to, for example, a health care organisation. This process sees researchers “immerse” themselves within an organisation to gain an understanding of the pressures and problems faced at Researchers “embedded” in an organisation work in partnership with staff producing knowledge that is collected and created ‘on the ground’, through daily interaction and negotiation with staff and service users. This offers the potential to ensure research is more closely aligned with the needs of an organisation, and, ultimately, end-users of services.

This partnership approach also offers a method of embedding research in an organisation’s systems and processes - informing standards, policies and procedures - and building research capacity.

Research and Quality Improvement (QI)

NHS organisations are expected to have Quality Improvement (QI) strategies in place, and resources and staff to drive these forward. Research evidence has an increasing role in facilitating improvements in healthcare quality, by “mobilising” knowledge generated by research into active use by staff.

The embedded research approach is an emerging trend within and beyond healthcare, but, to our knowledge, there are no published reviews of the characteristics of this approach, its potential role and the challenges it might face.


CLAHRC researchers based at a large NHS hospital trust - the Embedded Research Team (ERT) - conducted a narrative review of the literature to explore the role embedded researchers might play in improvement efforts in healthcare. They examined publications focusing on embedded research approaches, both within and outside healthcare.