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Research Challenge

Practice-based, patient-oriented research training program for direct care providers.

Research Challenge

Are you a BCMHSUS direct care provider interested in research?

  • Do you have a practice-related question, but have limited experience in research?
  • Are you interested in patient oriented research, but would like some guidance?
  • Are you enthusiastic about applying evidence to improve clinical practice, but are not sure where to start?
  • Do you want to conduct research to address a knowledge or practice gap and learn more about the research process?
The BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services is launching the Research Challenge — an opportunity for direct care staff to engage with like-minded colleagues to form and answer a practice-based research question through research.

  • Successful participants form research teams and apply for support to conduct a small-scale research study over a 12 month period. 
  • Teams are supported through educational workshops, mentors and up to $5,000 which can be used by teams to release time to work on research.
  • By participating, direct care providers can develop their knowledge of research and promote evidence-informed practice.

Why participate in the Research Challenge?

Direct care staff are often asked to apply research in their practice, but many do not have the capacity, time or resources to engage in research themselves. However, they can use their unique understanding and experience of their programs, clients and patients to make research meaningful and relevant for improving clinical practice. Enabling direct care staff to conduct research for which they are the users of their own research allows them to fully participate in the cycle of moving research into practice. 

The Research Challenge has been implemented in other health authorities in B.C. and has been evaluated to have positive clinical and professional impacts brought meaningful change to staff (e.g., procedures), patients and their families (e.g., quality of life) (Black et al., 2019). Participants became more interested in future research initiatives, dissemination activities (publishing research), interdisciplinary collaboration and promotion of evidence-based practice. 

Patient partnership and engagement

Please note that recruiting at least 1 patient partner into your research team is mandatory. We encourage research teams to involve patients in this way as engagement with patients, their families, and/or caregivers as partners throughout the research process enables the production of research findings that are relevant, accessible, and catered to the target patient population. Also known as patient & family partners, people with lived/living experience of mental health and substance use challenges, forensic services, and/or incarceration are able to be directly involved in the research process, from planning the research question to presenting findings, rather than as study “subjects.” Through a patient-oriented research approach, research is being conducted ‘with’ or ‘by’ patients rather than ‘for’ them. 

Substance use research, similar to other forms of research, has typically been conducted without the involvement of people who use(d) substances. Failure to include people with lived/living experience can intensify stigma as well as fail to address the key issues that are important to the population or a specific community.

Please direct any questions you may have to

Apply now


The Research Challenge is open to all BCMHSUS direct care staff who do not normally conduct research for their job. We encourage those with more research experience to participate as research mentors to research teams. More information on eligibility can be found below.

A research team (minimum of 5 members) is formed by a team leader, at least two other staff team members, a patient partner, and a team mentor.

  • Team leaders must be direct care BCMHSUS staff (non-physician), in a regular/permanent position, and have been employed for >1 year
  • Team members can be any BCMHSUS staff in a part-time or full-time permanent position, and can include patient partners
  • All team leaders and members should not normally conduct research

We encourage those with more research experience to participate as research mentors as part of the research team.

  • Any BCMHSUS staff that regularly conduct research are eligible (e.g., researchers, trainees, physicians, psychologists, etc.)
  • Researchers connected to BCMHSUS through research in other programs (i.e. UBC, SFU, BCCA, VCH, WHRI, etc.) are also eligible
  • Offers advice and guides research team but does not complete research work
  • See Mentorship & the Role of the Mentor Guidelines (PDF) for more information
  • Current and former patients, family members, and other people with lived and living experience of mental health and substance use
  • Represents the voice of the people that the research project serves
  • May participate in any/all parts of the research process

How to apply and what to expect

  1. Eligible staff form a research team of five or more and submit a Notice of Intent (application) to
    • The Notice of Intent will be evaluated on criteria such as:
      • Project idea or research question
      • Alignment with directional priorities
      • Innovation
      • Potential for positive policy, practice, and client/patient impacts
    • Teams find a patient partner and research mentor or request help to be matched. Depending on your preference, you can have one mentor or multiple mentors throughout different phases of the research challenge.
  2. Participate in self-assessment evaluation surveys and provide feedback at various time points
  3. Conduct a literature review
  4. Develop, submit and present a funding proposal
  5. Conduct the research project (approx. 12 months)
  6. Provide progress updates and submit a final report to the Research Challenge Advisory Committee
  7. Teams who complete the Research Challenge will be asked to present at a BCMHSUS knowledge exchange event to celebrate.

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SOURCE: Research Challenge ( )
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