More than numbers: The biology of complex interventions

LighthouseYes” said the slightly cross voice, clearly meaning ‘no’, not ‘yes’ …

Yes, I can see how that might be nice to know, but what we actually care about is ‘does handing out the information sheets actually get the parents to do the right thing?’ 

[A mildly fictionalised account of a research group encounter]

Sometimes it’s tricky to see the point in qualitative research, especially if you’ve grown up in an environment of number, bias, randomisation, confounding and precision. Sometimes the concept of research that works by asking people what they were feeling, enquiring about how they were thinking, exploring how and why they act in particular ways, can be very … well … sociological claptrap.

If instead of thinking that way, but perhaps considering how we might go about developing a new drug, you’ll start with wanting an understanding of the pathology, the mechanisms of abnormality and the dynamics of the medication.

So with some qualitative research; it can unpick the social mechanisms and meanderings that influence why stuff happens – and why it doesn’t – which are essential to underpin any intervention of a ‘complex’ nature

  • Bob Phillips

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