- Enola ProctorEnola ProctorWashington University in St. Louis
- and Alicia BungerAlicia BungerOhio State University
Implementation science seeks to inform how to deliver evidence-based interventions, programs, and policies in real-world settings so their benefits can be realized and sustained. The aim of implementation science is building a base of evidence about the most effective processes and strategies for improving service delivery. Implementation research builds upon effectiveness research and then seeks to discover how to use specific implementation strategies and to move interventions into specific settings, extending their availability, reach, and benefits to clients and communities. This article provides an overview of implementation science as a component of research translation with an emphasis on traditional social work practice settings. The article begins by defining key terms, including implementation and evidence-based interventions. To inform conceptualization of implementation studies, the article continues with an overview of guiding implementation theories, models, and frameworks that explain the role of the multi-level practice context for implementation. Next, the article defines implementation strategies, identifies sources of implementation strategies, and provides recommendations for specifying and describing strategies that allow for replication. The article then describes methodological issues, including variable measurement, research design, and stakeholder engagement. Given the importance of designing implementation studies that optimize both internal and external validity, there is special attention to creative alternatives to traditional randomized controlled trials, and the potential for participatory and systems approaches. Finally, the article concludes with a discussion of future directions for implementation science in social work.