Commentary on “Mapping the Growing Discipline of Dissemination and Implementation Science in Health”

Aug 11,2017 | Byron Powell Featured Articles

Commentary: As we approach the 10th Annual Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation in Health, it seems appropriate to reflect upon the growth and development of the field. Wynne Norton and colleagues 1 attempted to characterize the field of dissemination and implementation (D&I) by surveying subscribers to the Dissemination and Implementation in Health e-Newsletter (Implementation Science News’ predecessor). Thus, their findings not only have relevance to the broader field of D&I, but to the Implementation Science News community in particular.

The authors first sought to describe characteristics of individuals engaged in the field. Of the 421 participants (31% response rate), the majority had doctorates (59%) and identified primarily as researchers (81%). Participants predominantly conducted their D&I activities in the U.S., but collectively endorsed working in over 50 countries, demonstrating an impressive breadth of experience across multiple contexts. Nevertheless, as we look to maximize the reach and impact of the Implementation Science News network, it will be important for us to expand our membership internationally and to include an increasingly broad array of implementation stakeholders, including those who provide applied implementation and quality improvement support, administrators, front-line providers, and policy makers.

Another aim of the study was to identify key journals and conferences, and ultimately, Norton et al. 1 list the top 20 D&I journals and conferences by use and attendance. These lists should prove useful to those who are new to the field, as well as those who would like to identify additional venues by which to learn about and communicate D&I-related content. The list of relevant journals and conferences is rapidly expanding, and we certainly hope that Implementation Science News can be a go to source as new opportunities emerge. Please do not hesitate to send your suggestions for potential journals, conferences, trainings, and other relevant resources and opportunities to cis@consortiumforis.org.

Survey respondents were asked to identify individuals from whom they sought advice and those with whom they collaborated on D&I-related activities. These advice and collaboration networks were characterized using network analysis methods. Findings indicated that both the advice and collaboration networks exhibited characteristics of small world networks in which individuals are typically just a few degrees of separation from most others in the network; however, the networks also revealed a higher number of isolates (i.e., individuals with no advice or collaboration ties) than would be expected of networks this size. Norton et al. 1 cite several potential network interventions 2 that may be useful to advance the field, including “node-addition interventions” (adding individuals to the network that could be used to bridge one group with another or to establish ties with isolates), “rewiring interventions” that could connect individuals with complementary interests, and “induction interventions” that can distribute important and timely information throughout the network. We hope that Implementation Science News might play an important role in facilitating these types of network interventions, and in turn, promoting the growth and development of the field of D&I.

Norton et al. 1 provide an interesting snapshot of the early development of the field, but note that it will be critical to assess its evolution longitudinally using a wide range of methods in order to take stock of progress and generate strategic directions over time. In addition to focusing on metrics such as scholarly productivity (grants and publications), there will be increasing pressure to focus on a broader array of translational and societal impacts 3. In the spirit of achieving this broader impact, we are eager to see our D&I networks grow in size, diversity, and depth of connection in the coming years.

Read the abstract.


1Norton, W. E., Lungeanu, A., Chambers, D. A., & Contractor, N. (2017). Mapping the growing discipline of dissemination and implementation science in health. Scientometrics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-017-2455-2

2Valente, T. W. (2012). Network interventions. Science, 337(39), 49–53. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1217330

3Baldwin, J. A., Williamson, H. J., Eaves, E. R., Levin, B. L., Burton, D. L., & Massey, O. T. (2017). Broadening measures of success: Results of a behavioral health translational research training program. Implementation Science, 12(92), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13012-017-0621-9