In order to profile the health services research community in Australia and New Zealand and describe its capacity, a web-based survey was administered to members of the Health Services Research Association of Australia and New Zealand (HSRAANZ) and delegates of the HSRAANZ's Third Health Services Research and Policy Conference.
Responses were received from 191 individuals (68%). The responses of the 165 (86%) who conducted or managed health services research indicated that the health services research community in Australia and New Zealand is characterised by highly qualified professionals who have come to health services research via a range of academic and professional routes (including clinical backgrounds), the majority of whom are women aged between 35 and 54 who have mid- to senior- level appointments. They are primarily employed in universities and, to a lesser extent, government departments and health services. Although most are employed in full time positions, many are only able to devote part of their time to health services research, often juggling this with other professional roles. They rely heavily on external funding, as only half have core funding from their employing institution and around one third have employment contracts of one year or less. Many view issues around building the capacity of the health services research community and addressing funding deficits as crucial if health services research is to be translated into policy and practice. Despite the difficulties they face, most are positive about the support and advice available from peers in their work settings, and many are actively contributing to knowledge through academic and other written outputs.
If health services research is to achieve its potential in Australia and New Zealand, policy-makers and funders must take the concerns of the health services research community seriously, foster its development, and contribute to maximising its capacity through a sustainable approach to funding. There is a clear need for a strategic approach, where the health services research community collaborates with competitive granting bodies and government departments to define and fund a research agenda that balances priority-driven and investigator-driven research and which provides support for training and career development.