The impact of research governance in healthcare and higher education organizations


  • Michelle L. Howarth MSc RGN PGCHE,

  • Rosie Kneafsey BSc RGN PGCHE

Michelle Howarth,
School of Nursing,
University of Salford,
Albert Street,
Manchester M30 0NN,


Aim.  This paper reports a study exploring the impact and implementation of research governance in the North West region of England.

Background.  In 2001, the UK Government launched a framework to ensure the governance of research within the National Health Service. Whilst this framework was undoubtedly geared towards improving the standards and practice of research, concerns have been raised in the academic literature about the potentially negative impact on future research.

Methods.  A mixed method approach, using questionnaires (n = 350), semi-structured interviews and focus groups with a volunteer sample, was used to explore research staff perspectives about research governance. Survey data were analysed using Microsoft Excel, and a thematic analysis was used to elicit themes from the semi-structured interviews. The study lasted for 12 months and used a range of study sites, giving insight into potentially different experiences or approaches to implementing the research governance framework.

Findings.  Questionnaire data revealed a good level of awareness about the Research Governance Framework. However, a range of concerns was also raised, such as the increased workload associated with the research governance application process and lack of transparency about the process. Five themes emerged from the focus groups: control, epistemology, organizational issues, impact on teaching and learning, and ambiguity in the definitions of research and audit.

Conclusions.  Recommendations emerging from the study include the promotion of transparent research governance guidelines for practitioners, and the need for staff education about governance processes and greater parity between organizations in research governance processes.