Translational research networks are a deliberate strategy to bridge the gulf between biomedical research and clinical practice through interdisciplinary collaboration, supportive funding and infrastructure. The social network approach examines how the structure of the network and players who hold important positions within it constrain or enable function. This information can be used to guide network management and optimise its operations. The aim of this study was to describe the structure of a translational cancer research network (TCRN) in Australia over its first year, identify the key players within the network and explore these players' opportunities and constraints in maximising important network collaborations.
Methods and analysis
This study deploys a mixed-method longitudinal design using social network analysis augmented by interviews and review of TCRN documents. The study will use network documents and interviews with governing body members to explore the broader context into which the network is embedded as well as the perceptions and expectations of members. Of particular interest are the attitudes and perceptions of clinicians compared with those of researchers. A co-authorship network will be constructed of TCRN members using journal and citation databases to assess the success of past pre-network collaborations. Two whole network social network surveys will be administered 12 months apart and parameters such as density, clustering, centrality and betweenness centrality computed and compared using UCINET and Netdraw. Key players will be identified and interviewed to understand the specific activities, barriers and enablers they face in that role.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethics approvals were obtained from the University of New South Wales, South Eastern Sydney Northern Sector Local Health Network and Calvary Health Care Sydney. Results will be discussed with members of the TCRN, submitted to relevant journals and presented as oral presentations to clinicians, researchers and policymakers.
Translational research networks are a deliberate strategy to transform biomedical research ‘at the bench’ into clinical practice ‘at the bedside’ through interdisciplinary collaboration, supportive infrastructure, staff and funding.
What features of network structure hinder or promote successful translational research endeavours?
What is the role of key players in a collaborative, interdisciplinary network?
A protocol for a mixed method, longitudinal study of a new translational research network using a social network approach.
A social network approach can inform management of the network and suggest ways in which to optimise its function.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Mixed methods give quantitative data enriched with qualitative data.
Data was collected from the whole network, rather than from a sample of members.
Longitudinal design gives comparative data rather than a snapshot.