Aim. This paper reports a case study which examined the selection, implementation and outcomes of one university department's approach to building research capacity in nursing and midwifery.
Background. The literature identifies building nursing research capacity as an important challenge. In countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom it is taking place in the context of the move of nurse education into the university sector. Structural and cultural barriers to building academic nursing research capacity exist. Previous studies highlight the strategies that academic departments adopt to build nursing research capacity.
Methods. Using case study methodology, data were collected using documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 27 academic and related staff and a focus group with seven staff. The data were collected between 2003 and 2005.
Findings. The department had adopted an inclusive approach to capacity development (allowing all teaching staff to develop their research capability), but is now moving towards a more focused path and the cultivation of ‘leading edge’ research. Neophyte researchers described lacking confidence in undertaking research, and expressed a need for more formal support structures. The importance of effective management of capacity building was highlighted, including transparent communication and mapping of existing capacity. Key external influences included the lack of core research funding, and divergence between the university's emphasis on research and the department's desire to develop an interface between teaching, research and clinical practice.
Conclusion. Academic leadership and educational management should work in tandem. Staff development and the provision of time and support are crucial aspects of research capacity development. The effectiveness of ‘inclusive’ and ‘exclusive’ approaches to research capacity development depends on the nature of each department, and they are not mutually exclusive.