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Table 3 Emerging challenges of cross-disciplinary health policy and systems research

From: A critical realist synthesis of cross-disciplinary health policy and systems research: defining characteristic features, developing an evaluation framework and identifying challenges

Challenges Examples Coping mechanisms
Conceptual Difficulty in developing a shared conceptual framework [29, 30, 56, 67, 68, 70, 80, 81] Establishing a CDR learning platform [30, 53, 67, 70, 76, 82, 83]
Developing a well thought-out rationale for cross-disciplinary research [54, 55, 57, 60, 67]
Mentoring for early career researchers [27, 53, 54, 70, 76]
Disagreement about research methods [56, 57, 61, 67, 68, 80, 82] Piloting multiple methods [53, 57, 68, 76, 84]
Seeking inputs/counsel from (experienced) external advisors [61, 81, 85, 86]
Challenges in maintaining disciplinary balance as the study progresses [56, 57, 66, 67, 70, 81, 87] Sustaining interaction, dialogue and ongoing evaluation of the process [60, 66, 67, 70, 76, 82]
Pre-developing mechanism for cross-disciplinary revision [53, 54, 57, 83, 88]
Disciplinary capture; politics of hierarchy of disciplines [24, 56, 70, 86] Building shared understanding of participating disciplines [30, 56, 73, 82, 86]
Modifying established research practices to fit multiple disciplinary contexts [26, 27, 83, 86, 89]
Institutional Career progression and promotion criteria remain discipline based [52, 56, 59, 68, 69, 79] Building multi-stakeholder support for cross-disciplinarity [19, 54, 55, 67, 69, 79]
Suiting financial requirements of funding bodies [24, 54, 55, 64, 66] Developing internally generated funding avenues [55, 60, 88]
Diversifying funding networks [24, 60, 64, 66, 88]
Reluctance among institutions to cross-disciplinarise [53, 59, 60, 70, 90] Building a cross-disciplinary organisational culture in the overall health policy and systems structure [29, 53, 60, 62, 70, 76, 79]
Reaching out to government, industry and community [52, 56, 60, 67, 76, 80, 88]
Limited external stakeholder appreciation of cross-disciplinary research potentials [53, 57, 60, 73, 81, 91] Demonstrating the extra scientific impact of cross-disciplinary research over intradisciplinary research [53, 55, 70, 73, 81]
Maintaining knowledge brokering with external stakeholders [60, 74, 80, 81, 88, 91]
Communication and information management Frequent communication breakdowns and disenchantment among team members [19, 23, 52, 66, 73, 81] Keeping to a shared cross-disciplinary communication plan from the onset [23, 57, 60, 73, 92]
Ensuring frequent interaction and meetings among team members [23, 60, 73, 81, 85]
Using interactive media to develop team communication platforms [23, 60, 73, 79]
Challenge of accommodating discipline-specific languages of participating disciplines and stakeholders [19, 56, 59, 67, 93] Focusing more on development of a shared language than capturing each discipline’s specific tone [19, 26, 67, 85, 87]
Challenge of finding media suitable to participating disciplines and stakeholders [19, 56, 59, 67] Using various communication mediums and strategies [19, 26, 81]
Conflicts over authorship and publication of research output [19, 58, 59, 67, 68] Formulating authorship guidelines from the onset of the project [19, 56, 58, 76, 79, 85]
Breaking down overall team into smaller similar-interest teams [52, 59, 67, 76, 87]
Research coordination Difficulties in avoiding and addressing interpersonal conflicts [56, 58, 60, 67, 69, 70] Developing strong and trusted team leadership [53, 54, 76, 87, 94]
Fostering interdisciplinary relations [54, 56, 58, 67, 69, 70]
Maintaining manageable team sizes [24, 60, 70]
Facilitating small group/problem-solving sessions [57, 60, 67]
Difficulty in obtaining commitment and participation from team members [24, 68, 70, 76, 95] Blending formal and informal structures to boost morale [24, 53, 76]
Negotiating and building compromises [55, 57, 73, 76, 82, 87]
Clearly articulating team members’ roles early in the process [53, 54, 57, 88]
Developing an evaluation criterion from the outset [23, 63, 66, 70, 73]
Marginalisation and power dynamics [56, 69, 76, 81] Building trust on fair disciplinary representation [30, 67, 68, 81, 95]
Defining authority–responsibility parity early [54, 56]
Challenge of integrating diverse and incompatible ethical codes [58, 59, 67, 92, 95, 96] Promoting mutual knowledge and respect for intradisciplinary ethical codes [58, 59, 67, 92, 95, 96]
Resources Heavy time commitment to team meetings and study schedules [24, 52, 53, 68, 82, 90] Obtaining institutional commitment to time and workload adjustments for cross-disciplinary researchers [24, 56, 58, 76, 82, 94]
Setting reasonable research goals and timelines [24, 53, 57, 67, 70]
Balancing research commitments with work requirements [52, 53, 67, 74] Integrating cross-disciplinary research into existing institutional structures [24, 52, 57, 61, 69]
High cost of research [22, 23, 67, 76, 80] Building external stakeholder support [22,23,24, 53, 59,60,61, 79, 88]