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Benefits and challenges of collaborative research: lessons from supportive and palliative care
  1. Sheila Payne1,
  2. Jane Seymour2,
  3. Alex Molassiotis3,
  4. Katherine Froggatt1,
  5. Gunn Grande3,
  6. Mari Lloyd-Williams4,
  7. Claire Foster5,
  8. Roger Wilson1,
  9. Liz Rolls1,
  10. Chris Todd3 and
  11. Julia Addington-Hall5
  1. 1School of Health and Medicine, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
  2. 2School of Nursing, Midwifery and Physiotherapy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  3. 3School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  4. 4School of Population, Community and Behavioural Studies, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  5. 5School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Sheila Payne, School of Health and Medicine, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YT, UK; s.a.payne{at}


Objective To describe the processes of establishing and running the Cancer Experiences Collaborative (CECo), and reflect upon the benefits and challenges of undertaking collaborative research in supportive and palliative care.

Design A descriptive analysis of a 5-year research collaborative initiated in 2006.

Setting Research groups at the Universities of Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Southampton, England.

Participants 26 UK organisations including the four largest hospices in England, hospital cancer centres, Help the Hospices (a national charity supporting independent hospices) and user representatives.

Findings The aim of CECo was to enhance the value, quality and productivity of scientific research in supportive and palliative care, and to increase research capacity and improve the coordination of collaborative research. Three programmatic themes of research were established: (i) innovative approaches to complex symptoms, (ii) planning for the care of older adults towards the end of life and (iii) research methodology including narrative approaches. Four benefits and challenges are highlighted: strategic leadership and management structures for cross-institutional work, working in multidisciplinary groups and linking research with practice settings, capacity building, and user involvement.

Conclusions The activities of CECo have resulted in significant benefits with an increase in good quality research studies that have led to the production of a significant number of peer-reviewed papers, and learning between academics, clinicians and users, which has contributed to raising the standards of supportive and palliative care research. However, the future of such research initiatives is fragile, with concerns about the sustainability of collaboration in the face of diminishing resources.

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  • Funding Financial support from the National Cancer Research Institute partnership consortium is gratefully acknowledged.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.