Understanding the Broker Role of Clinician-Scientists: A Realist Review on How They Link Research and Practice

Margot Barry, Esther de Groot, Yvette Baggen, Martin Smalbrugge, Nienke Moolenaar, Marie-Louise E. L. Bartelink, Roger A. M. J. Damoiseaux, Nynke Scherpbier, Manon Kluijtmans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


PURPOSE: Clinician-scientists are said to be well placed to connect research and practice, but their broker role has been underexplored. This review sought to gain an understanding of the broker role of clinician-scientists. METHOD: The authors conducted a realist review to describe context-mechanism-outcome (CMO) configurations associated with the broker role of clinician-scientists. CINAHL, PubMed, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and Embase were searched between May and August 2017. Data were analyzed qualitatively; data synthesis focused on assembling CMO configurations. RESULTS: Of an initial 2,241 articles, 9 were included in the final review. Included papers show that clinician-scientists, in their broker role, achieve 2 organizational-level outcomes: an increased volume of clinically relevant, research, and increased evidence application to improve care. They also achieve the individual-level outcome of professional development as a researcher, clinician, and broker. Multidimensional skills and management support are necessary context factors. Mechanisms that contribute to outcomes include balancing economic and scientific interests and performing boundary-crossing activities. Four CMO configurations by which clinician-scientists achieve outcomes in brokering a connection between research and practice were identified. Useful program theories for explaining these are boundary crossing, social network, communities of practice, and diffusion of innovation theory. CONCLUSIONS: The mechanisms found may provide insight for interventions aiming to support clinician-scientists in their broker role. The authors expect that if more attention is paid to learning multidimensional skills and management support for the broker role is strengthened, stronger links between research and practice could be forged.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1589-1598
Number of pages10
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

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