Funding from the Digital Health CRC is supporting Natalie Smith’s important work with the University of Queensland Business School, where she is identifying ways to administer digital health transformations more effectively.

Natalie’s recent work, published in the International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, makes useful recommendations for universities which may need to look at new models of funding research in a financially-constrained post-COVID world.

Her paper is an ‘autoethnography’ – she uses her own PhD scholarly work as case study throughout.

Smith says that the ‘action research’ model can remove barriers between participants and researchers, leveraging theory to solve problems in industry.

She cites the field of project management as an example. A third of economic activity in Western nations is project- based – but debate rages about the extent to which projects deliver value or waste money, she says.

Smith says that action research (used effectively by practitioners in health and education) could solve some of the intractable problems in assessing the effectiveness of project management.

She argues that universities see action research as a risky model, which could explain why it makes up less than two per cent of scholarly work.

“Action research is not for the faint-hearted,” Smith admits, adding that although her work was impacted by COVID-19, her experience also revealed some of the benefits of action research.

Smith, Natalie Emerging from the swamp: an autoethnography on the legitimacy of action research in International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 2021. ISSN: 1753-8378