Building capacity for dissemination and implementation research: One university's experience

Ross C. Brownson, Enola K. Proctor, Douglas A. Luke, Ana A. Baumann, Mackenzie Staub, Matthew T. Brown, Mallory Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background: While dissemination and implementation (D&I) science has grown rapidly, there is an ongoing need to understand how to build and sustain capacity in individuals and institutions conducting research. There are three inter-related domains for capacity building: people, settings, and activities. Since 2008, Washington University in St. Louis has dedicated significant attention and resources toward building D&I research capacity. This paper describes our process, challenges, and lessons with the goal of informing others who may have similar aims at their own institution. Activities: An informal collaborative, the Washington University Network for Dissemination and Implementation Research (WUNDIR), began with a small group and now has 49 regular members. Attendees represent a wide variety of settings and content areas and meet every 6 weeks for half-day sessions. A logic model organizes WUNDIR inputs, activities, and outcomes. A mixed-methods evaluation showed that the network has led to new professional connections and enhanced skills (e.g., grant and publication development). As one of four, ongoing, formal programs, the Dissemination and Implementation Research Core (DIRC) was our first major component of D&I infrastructure. DIRC's mission is to accelerate the public health impact of clinical and health services research by increasing the engagement of investigators in later stages of translational research. The aims of DIRC are to advance D&I science and to develop and equip researchers with tools for D&I research. As a second formal component, the Washington University Institute for Public Health has provided significant support for D&I research through pilot projects and a small grants program. In a third set of formal programs, two R25 training grants (one in mental health and one in cancer) support post-doctoral scholars for intensive training and mentoring in D&I science. Finally, our team coordinates closely with D&I functions within research centers across the university. We share a series of challenges and potential solutions. Conclusion: Our experience in developing D&I research at Washington University in St. Louis shows how significant capacity can be built in a relatively short period of time. Many of our ideas and ingredients for success can be replicated, tailored, and improved upon by others.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104
JournalImplementation Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 16 2017


  • Capability development
  • Capacity building
  • Dissemination and implementation research
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Organizational capabilities
  • Translational research


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