A new model of collaborative research: experiences from one of Australia’s NHMRC Partnership Centres for Better Health
There is often a disconnection between the creation of evidence and its use in policy and practice. Cross-sectoral, multidisciplinary partnership research, founded on shared governance and coproduction, is considered to be one of the most effective means of overcoming this research-policy-practice disconnect. Similar to a number of funding bodies internationally, Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council has introduced Partnership Centres for Better Health: a scheme explicitly designed to encourage coproduced partnership research. In this paper, we describe our experiences of The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre, established in June 2013 to explore the systems, strategies and structures that inform decisions about how to prevent lifestyle-related chronic disease. We present our view on how the Partnership Centre model is working in practice. We comment on the unique features of the Partnership Centre funding model, how these features enable ways of working that are different from both investigator-initiated and commissioned research, and how these ways of working can result in unique outcomes that would otherwise not have been possible. Although not without challenges, the Partnership Centre approach addresses a major gap in the Australian research environment, whereby large-scale, research-policy-practice partnerships are established with sufficient time, resources and flexibility to deliver highly innovative, timely and accessible research that is of use to policy and practice.