Creating research-ready partnerships: the initial development of seven implementation laboratories to advance cancer control

Gina R. Kruse, Erica Hale, Justin E. Bekelman, Jennifer E. DeVoe, Rachel Gold, Peggy A. Hannon, Thomas K. Houston, Aimee S. James, Ashley Johnson, Lisa M. Klesges, Andrea L. Nederveld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: In 2019–2020, with National Cancer Institute funding, seven implementation laboratory (I-Lab) partnerships between scientists and stakeholders in ‘real-world’ settings working to implement evidence-based interventions were developed within the Implementation Science Centers in Cancer Control (ISC3) consortium. This paper describes and compares approaches to the initial development of seven I-Labs in order to gain an understanding of the development of research partnerships representing various implementation science designs. Methods: In April-June 2021, members of the ISC3 Implementation Laboratories workgroup interviewed research teams involved in I-Lab development in each center. This cross-sectional study used semi-structured interviews and case-study-based methods to collect and analyze data about I-Lab designs and activities. Interview notes were analyzed to identify a set of comparable domains across sites. These domains served as the framework for seven case descriptions summarizing design decisions and partnership elements across sites. Results: Domains identified from interviews as comparable across sites included engagement of community and clinical I-Lab members in research activities, data sources, engagement methods, dissemination strategies, and health equity. The I-Labs use a variety of research partnership designs to support engagement including participatory research, community-engaged research, and learning health systems of embedded research. Regarding data, I-Labs in which members use common electronic health records (EHRs) leverage these both as a data source and a digital implementation strategy. I-Labs without a shared EHR among partners also leverage other sources for research or surveillance, most commonly qualitative data, surveys, and public health data systems. All seven I-Labs use advisory boards or partnership meetings to engage with members; six use stakeholder interviews and regular communications. Most (70%) tools or methods used to engage I-Lab members such as advisory groups, coalitions, or regular communications, were pre-existing. Think tanks, which two I-Labs developed, represented novel engagement approaches. To disseminate research results, all centers developed web-based products, and most (n = 6) use publications, learning collaboratives, and community forums. Important variations emerged in approaches to health equity, ranging from partnering with members serving historically marginalized populations to the development of novel methods. Conclusions: The development of the ISC3 implementation laboratories, which represented a variety of research partnership designs, offers the opportunity to advance understanding of how researchers developed and built partnerships to effectively engage stakeholders throughout the cancer control research lifecycle. In future years, we will be able to share lessons learned for the development and sustainment of implementation laboratories.

Original languageEnglish
Article number174
JournalBMC health services research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Cancer control
  • Community-engaged research
  • Implementation science
  • Partnership-building


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