Objectives Though multidisciplinary research networks support the practice and effectiveness of continuous quality improvement (CQI) programmes, their characteristics and development are poorly understood. In this study, we examine publication outputs from a research network in Australian Indigenous primary healthcare (PHC) to assess to what extent the research network changed over time.
Setting Australian CQI research network in Indigenous PHC from 2002 to 2019.
Participants Authors from peer-reviewed journal articles and books published by the network.
Design Coauthor networks across four phases of the network (2002-2004; 2005-2009; 2010-2014; 2015-2019) were constructed based on author affiliations and examined using social network analysis methods. Descriptive characteristics included organisation types, Indigenous representation, gender, student authorship and thematic research trends.
Results We identified 128 publications written by 308 individual authors from 79 different organisations. Publications increased in number and diversity over each funding phase. During the final phase, publication outputs accelerated for organisations, students, project officers, Indigenous and female authors. Over time there was also a shift in research themes to encompass new clinical areas and social, environmental or behavioural determinants of health. Average degree (8.1), clustering (0.81) and diameter (3) indicated a well-connected network, with a core-periphery structure in each phase (p≤0.03) rather than a single central organisation (degree centralisation=0.55-0.65). Academic organisations dominated the core structure in all funding phases. Conclusion Collaboration in publications increased with network consolidation and expansion. Increased productivity was associated with increased authorship diversity and a decentralised network, suggesting these may be important factors in enhancing research impact and advancing the knowledge and practice of CQI in PHC. Publication diversity and growth occurred mainly in the fourth phase, suggesting long-term relationship building among diverse partners is required to facilitate participatory research in CQI. Despite improvements, further work is needed to address inequities in female authorship and Indigenous authorship.