Q-MIR 2023: A masterclass in qualitative methods in implementation research

28 Apr 2023

“Be selective, be objective, be an asset to the collective.” These song lyrics, originally written by Soul II Soul, were aptly used by Professor Carl May (LSHTM) to sum up learnings from the recent Qualitative Methods in Implementation Research (Q-MIR) symposium.

The symposium, a collaboration between the ARC North Thames Academy and ARC North England and North Cumbria (NENC), took place on 23-24 March 2023 at Woburn House in Bloomsbury, London’s famed knowledge quarter. It brought together researchers and practitioners from the national and international qualitative implementation research community, to discuss opportunities and challenges, to build a community, and to share and showcase best practice.

The symposium featured workshops led by prominent figures in the field of implementation research, such as Profs Tracy Finch and Tim Rapley (ARC NENC) and Profs Fiona Stevenson, Annette Boaz and Carl May (ARC NT). There were also three invited speakers to an insight discussion: Dr. Sarah Beardon (UCL), Dr. Kristian Hudson (Improvement Academy, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust), and Dr. Charitini Stavropoulou (City, University of London).

Prof Tracy Finch, Northumbria University / ARC NENC, said: “As a presenter and convener, I was struck by level of interest in focusing in on qualitative methods in relation to the field of implementation science. I think this combination of approaches has been a bit overlooked as a ‘field’, as if we are qualitative methodologists we can tend to focus on just following robust qualitative methods, rather than how those methods better serve implementation studies. Coming together as two ARCs allowed some important ‘connecting’ to happen around a QMIR agenda, both intellectually (in preparing the programme and thinking about what we want to say or contribute to it as a field), and socially.”

The event aimed to move away from the traditional research conference format, where researchers present their work in discrete sessions. Instead, the symposium left ample space for participants to exchange ideas, thoughts and current concerns for the field. Keynote speeches were replaced with an insight discussion, critical discussion and poster presentations. Open workshops allowed the group to diverge at various points in the day, to hone in on methods, practice, policy and application. Key learnings from the first day included, according to ARC NT’s Sarah Jasim (LSE):

  • That implementation should be built in from the start of any project, rather than addressed as an after-thought
  • “Slow” implementation is the best approach, as it allows invaluable time to reflect, play and think differently
  • That implementation research must prioritise new collaborative ways of working and thinking

Feedback from the event was very positive, with many participants enjoying the sense of community it created. One participant said: “I attended this conference expecting to learn about NPT and its applications. But the best part of this conference was the chance to meet and chat with likeminded people, share ideas and experiences. I actually realised during one of the sessions how I could improve my PhD methodology and I emailed my supervisors at the time of the brainwave!

Participants also complemented the organisers on the quality of speakers, whose “perspectives, problematising and solutions were incredibly illuminating”, and for the “supportive and comfortable environment to think about the work we are doing and how we are doing it.”

Thank you to all those who joined us for the online and in-person events. A special thanks also to our fantastic conveners and invited speakers. Finally, a well-deserved shout out to Silvie Cooper and the NIHR ARC North Thames Academy team, for their excellent organisation.

Find out more about the event on the Q-MIR symposium webpage.

You can now watch recordings from the live event via the ARC North Thames YouTube channel here.

This in-person symposium followed a series of online plenary presentations, which aired in November 2022. Recordings of these online sessions are also available on the ARC North Thames YouTube channel.


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