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Reporting Standards for Implementation Science

Earlier this spring, a collection of reporting guidelines for implementation studies was published in BMJ. The Standards for Reporting Implementation Studies (StaRI) Statement [1] and accompanying elaboration document [2] recommend 27 items that should be reported on when publishing implementation studies and provide examples of how to do that. The 27-item checklist is divided into dual strands, encouraging researchers to describe details of both the evidence-based intervention being implemented and the strategy or set of strategies used to promote its implementation.

These reporting standards in part stemmed from a 2013 NIH meeting that brought together 23 experts, including those whose work has focused on reporting standards in implementation science. The group was tasked with summarizing critical elements of an implementation study that, if communicated, could maximize the likelihood that the research findings would be useful to end users (e.g., researchers, practitioners, policy makers). This effort was summarized in a paper [3] that described these elements across the various phases of implementation science, from the planning phase of the research to the delivery of the intervention, evaluation of the implementation, and ultimately, the long-term outcomes. Simultaneously, the StaRI group was formed in 2013, led by researchers and trialists at the University of Edinburgh and Queen Mary University of London, who set out to systematically develop a set of reporting guidelines through the EQUATOR network. A subset of members from the NIH meeting joined the StaRI group to develop a set of internationally vetted guidelines.

These efforts have generated healthy debate and ongoing discussions about the optimal use of guidelines in implementation studies, including the relationship among the different guidelines from various related fields (e.g., CONSORT, SQUIRE, CReDECI, PRISMA). While the StaRI guidelines provide an important step toward harmonization of reporting, it will be helpful to examine how they are used to capture evidence from a range of studies. The dual strands of the guidelines are critical components, highlighting the need to describe both the intervention and the set of strategies used to enhance implementation, but they also may add to the burden. In addition, distinguishing between the intervention and the implementation strategy is not always a trivial matter.

We’d love to hear your feedback about how you may be using the guidelines, what you find helpful, what you find challenging, and how you think the guidelines could be most useful. We’d also appreciate your insights on how providing this information might enhance the likelihood that research findings from implementation studies will be useful and ultimately improve health and healthcare.

  1. Pinnock H, Barwick M, Carpenter CR, Eldridge S, Grandes G, Griffiths CJ, Rycroft-Malone J, Meissner P, Murray E, Patel A, Sheikh A, Taylor SJ; StaRI Group. Standards for Reporting Implementation Studies (StaRI) Statement. BMJ. 2017 Mar 6;356:i6795. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i6795.
  2. Pinnock H, Barwick M, Carpenter CR, Eldridge S, Grandes G, Griffiths CJ, Rycroft-Malone J, Meissner P, Murray E, Patel A, Sheikh A, Taylor SJ; StaRI Group. Standards for Reporting Implementation Studies (StaRI): explanation and elaboration document. BMJ Open. 2017 Apr 3;7(4):e013318. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013318.
  3. Neta G, Glasgow RE, Carpenter CR, Grimshaw JM, Rabin BA, Fernandez ME, Brownson RC. A Framework for Enhancing the Value of Research for Dissemination and Implementation.  Am J Public Health. 2015 Jan;105(1):49-57.

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