Implementation Science Defined

Since the inception of the evidence-based program movement in the 1990s there has been persistent concern about the science to service gap (Perl, 2011), the movement of research from bench to bedside (Greenhalgh & Wieringa, 2011), and the quality chasm resulting from the research to practice gap (Institute of Medicine, 2001).  In the phrase science to service, we have come to understand that “to” means “implementation”.  Thus, science to service means science implemented in service. 

Furthermore, a simple definition of “implement” is: “to fulfill; perform; carry out: to put into effect according to or by means of a definite plan or procedure” (dictionary.com, 2015).  Thus, research to practice means research that is put into effect in practice according to a definite plan. So, if “implement” means to put into effect according to a definite plan, then:

Implementation Science is the study of factors that influence the full and effective use of innovations in practice.  The goal is not to answer factual questions about what is, but rather to determine what is required. (NIRN, 2015)

This definition of implementation science emphasizes the study of factors that are action oriented and mission driven.  In this conception, the “factors that influence the full and effective use of innovations in practice” are not assumed to be known.  In implementation science, implementation factors are identified or developed and demonstrated in practice, to “influence the full and effective use of innovations.”  Each factor and the factors in combination are subject to continued study and improvement in order to advance the science of implementation.