BACKGROUND: Research and practice are often considered as two different worlds with different values, which causes a gap between them. Involving professionals such as practitioners, managers, decision-makers, and policy-makers in research on ageing and health might address the gap between research and practice, strengthen the healthcare system, and increase older people's possibilities for healthy ageing. The aim of this study was to conceptualize professionals' involvement in research on ageing and health from the perspective of the professionals themselves.
METHODS: A mixed method called group concept mapping was used. Professionals with experience being involved in research on ageing and health participated in qualitative data collection through brainstorming sessions (n = 29) and by sorting statements (n = 29). Afterwards, they participated in a quantitative data collection by rating statements according to how much each statement strengthened practice (n = 30) and strengthened research (n = 28). Multidimensional scaling analysis and hierarchical cluster analysis were used to conduct quantitative analysis. Latent qualitative analysis was also conducted.
RESULTS: Analysis resulted in eight clusters which illustrated conceptual areas of professionals' involvement in research projects. The qualitative latent construct of the cluster map resulted in the themes: challenges for professionals; prerequisites and professionals' learning can contribute to development of practice; and integrated knowledge benefits older people. There was a strong correlation between what strengthens practice and research (r = 0.92).
CONCLUSIONS: This study illustrates conceptual areas of professionals' own perspectives on what their involvement in research can lead to. Their involvement may lead to knowledge being integrated, and the professionals may learn through their involvement, which can contribute to the development of practice. However, there can also be challenges that need to be handled when professionals are involved in research. The study can be useful for improving the understanding of and actual involvement of professionals in research, and for optimizing the involvement of professionals.
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