Research Note: How to secure funding for educational research- A mission impossible?

By | 4th March 2021


Lead author: Elisabeth Carlson, PhD, MNEd, RN, is a professor at the Department of Care Science at Malmö University. elisabeh.carlson@m

Malin Axelsson PhD, RN, is an associate professor at the Department of Care Science at Malmö University.

Christine Kumlien PhD, RN, is a professor at the Department of Care Science at Malmö University and Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Skåne University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden.

Magnus Falk PhD, is an associate senior lecturer at the Department of Biomedical Science at Malmö University.

Maria M. Stollenwerk PhD, is a senior lecturer at the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Malmö University.

Jenny Jakobsson PhD, RN, Specialist nurse in surgical care and associate senior lecturer at the Department of Care Science at Malmö University.

Petri Gudmundsson PhD, is an associate professor and director of studies in biomedical laboratory science at the Department of Biomedical Science at Malmö University.



Creating conditions for equal access to diagnostic- and health care services and diminishing existing health differences in the population are important prerequisites for sustainable social development. In response to these challenges, collaboration between different health care providers has been suggested as one most important improvement strategy. Nonetheless, the ability to collaborate needs to be practiced throughout health care education, and educational activities need to be designed to enhance collaborative learning. This implies that higher education should meet the criteria of scientific validity and not least practical relevance. Thereby, we identified the need for increased research collaboration between researchers from Care Science and Biomedical Science to benefit from our complementary competencies. In this blog we provide some insights into the development of a joint research platform, and how we worked towards securing sufficient grant for its development.


What do you do as a researcher when you find yourself in a position of challenges finding (and receiving) specific research grants for your field of interest? The simple answer is that you try till you make it! This short report will provide a description of how we succeeded to secure grants towards the development of an interdisciplinary research platform focusing on interprofessional learning with the objective to develop educational strategies securely based in scientific evidence. Following is the short story of the development of the platform for Research Informed Development of Higher Education (RIDHE) involving the departments of Care Science and Biomedical Science at Malmö University.


We started by identifying the challenges ahead that are impacting health care and thus also, higher health care education. We concluded that in recent decades, the gap between groups experiencing health or ill-health has increased both globally and locally. Thus, creating conditions for equal health are important prerequisites for sustainable social development (CSDH, 2008). In addition, a rapidly changing demographic distribution where people are getting older with increasing risks for multi-organ diseases will probably lead to a greater demand for health care staff. In response to these challenges, interprofessional collaboration has been suggested as not only a most important improvement in care delivery (Frenk et al, 2010; Wen & Schulman, 2014), but also central to sustainable health promotion (Peterson, 2009). Further, Pinho and Reeves (2021) argue that the internationalization of health problems crossing borders calls for increased international and interprofessional research collaboration. However, the ability to collaborate is not intuitive, and the current training of health professionals has been criticized for insufficient preparation of students for interprofessional collaboration (Frenk et al., 2010). What is needed is probably different initiatives of interprofessional education (IPE) to facilitate students’ development of collaborative knowledge and skills to improve clinical practice and thus patient care. We found this significantly important as previous reviews (Reeves et al., 2013; 2017) concluded that there is not enough evidence to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of IPE in relation to changes in care and health outcomes.

To further our case we wanted to explicitly frame the platform in sociocultural learning theory as collaborative ways of learning is described by Dennick (2012) as experiential and constructivist learning. These aspects originates from the thinking of Vygotsky on sociocultural theory (SCT) where learning is essentially a social term rather than individual in nature, and where interaction constitutes the learning process. Further, learning as an inherently social process is activated through the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), suggesting that learning is dependent on interactions, collaboration and relationships (Vygotsky 1978). Thereby, educational strategies should promote student activity and prepare students for professional work by allowing students to take active part in learning processes by building knowledge through collaboration in connection to actual social and health challenges in the society. Moreover, the majority of today´s students belong to what is generally known as Generation Z (born after 1995), who is still to come into the workforce. Cilliers (2017) explains how they tend to be digital natives, fast decision makers, and the first generation born into a globally (internet) connected world. Generation Z students are more prone to raise questions online, tend to prefer interactive games and collaborative projects and therefore expect a learning environment in which they can interact in similar ways.

Presenting the benefits

It goes without saying that in order to receive funding it is necessary to present expected outcomes and benefits. Our strategy was to try to illustrate how important it is that teaching and learning practices are scientifically evaluated which is not always the case in health care education. We had identified a need to continuously strive towards scientific development of teaching practices that will strengthen students ‘abilities to address societal challenges so that students are It is therefore of utmost importance to direct research towards studies that not only describe and explore existing educational models but, to an increasing degree, develop, evaluate and measure learning outcomes of new educational models and teaching practices specifically focusing interprofessional learning. The main objective for RIDHE is therefore to facilitate the development of high quality education aligned to best available evidence and interprofessional practice.This is increasingly important as our programs aim to prepare students for the complexity of current and future health care, specifically in the light of the anticipated increased need for health care professionals (Statistics Sweden, 2018). Thereby, we continued by presenting our argument for research collaboration between the particular departments of Care Science and Biomedical Science. First, both departments have programs for bachelor and master degrees which opens up opportunities for larger comparative studies. Second, the team of researchers have extensive experience not only of educational development and research, but also of health research from biomedical and nursing perspectives in close collaboration with healthcare organizations and the biomedical industry. This means that we have access to different clinical areas, for example hospital care, primary health care and home-based elderly care, which will allow for research in theoretical as well as clinical settings.

In our application we provided two examples of on-going research representative for what we foresee as projects that will benefit from being part of a cohesive research environment such as RIDHE. The first example is the project “The complexity of Interprofessional Learning”, where the first study out of four aims to explore effects of interprofessional education at an Interprofessional Training Ward on readiness for interprofessional learning and self-efficacy for interprofessional competence in relation to personality traits in health care students. The second example stems from the project “Student participation in interdisciplinary research teams – a development and implementation of vertically integrated projects in biomedical research” with the objective to explore how students can contribute to and learn about research in a biomedical research environment with academic and industrial partners by participating in Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP). VIP is a transformative approach to enhancing higher education by engaging undergraduate and graduate students in long-term and interdisciplinary project teams. Teams of students from various disciplines and educational levels work with faculty in their areas of scholarship and exploration. This provides students with not only extended subject knowledge but also enhancing their collaborative and process-oriented research skills.

Receiving funding

As a result of our efforts we received a substantial grant for the years 2021-2023 for development and implementation of RIDHE, and now the heavy lifting starts and it is entirely up to us to manage to the best of our joint capacities making RIDHE a nexus for research projects addressing interprofessional and interdisciplinary learning and collaboration.


Competing Interest

No potential competing interest was reported by the authors.


This work was supported by the Faculty of Health and Society, Malmö University under Grant

[LED 2020/685].



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Collaboration, Interdisciplinary research, Interprofessional learning, Research funding