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Table 1 Summary of the 15 papers that used the WReN Spider (in chronological order)

From: Proliferation of the WReN spider, an instrument to measure health professionals’ experience of research: a bibliographic study

Author & Year of publication Setting (Institution & Country) Health professionals Study design Type of use ([1]: original Spider alone / [2]: original Spider in conjunction with another assessment / [3]: modified Spider alone/ [4]: modified Spider in conjunction with another assessment) Used WReN Spider pre and post- intervention? Main findings
Ried et al., 2006 South Australian Research Network ‘SARNet’, Australia Network Members (N = 89), 32% AHPs, 23% GPs and 45% others Cross sectional questionnaire survey [4] WReN Spider used in conjunction with questions in three other areas (personal and professional background, current level of participation in research, and publication and funding record) developed to assess ‘experience in ten core research skills, as well as their interest in developing these skills. No Participants reported little or moderate experience in 7 out of the 10 items. ‘Finding relevant literature’ was most often (60%) reported with the highest level of experience. 60% reported no or little experience in ‘Publishing research’ or in ‘applying for research funding’ Participants reported high interest in improving their skills in 9 out of the 10 items. Lower overall interest was reported for ‘finding relevant literature’ and 50% showed ‘high interest’ in ‘analysis and interpretation of results’
Ried et al., 2007 Flinders University, Australia Primary health care practitioners (N = 34) who had received a small research grant Semi-structured 40 min telephone interview [2] WReN Spider in conjuction with 6 other questions in similar Spider format relating to the impact of a grant on funding holders capacity, confidence and interest in pursuing research Yes, measured pre and post intervention of bursaries, grants writers and research fellowships Median research experience increased for 9 of the 10 skill areas after grant activity
Ried et al., 2008 General Practice Education and Training/ University of Adelaide, Australia GPs (N = 77) who had attended a 3 day research workshop as a GP in training sometime in the previous 5 years Cross-sectional postal survey [2] WReN used to measure experience in 10 core areas of research skills as part of a wider questionnaire Yes, but both pre- and post- assessment measured after the workshop. Pre- based on recall of experience Self-reported research skills increased over time for the whole group and most significantly for registrars with little or no previous research experience and research project participants. Workshop was reported to have an impact on capacity, confidence and interest in research
Stephens et al., 2009 Healthcare network in an outer metropolitan region of Victoria, Australia AHPs (N = 132) across the network, excluding allied health assistants and AHPs working in mental health Self-completed paper survey [4] Research Spider used in the survey as an instrument used to examine clinicians’ level research experience and research interest across 10 core areas No AHPs rated themselves as having ‘little research experience’ overall. Although the level of interest was higher than that of experience, items in the WReN Spider specifically relating to research were of little interest to the 85% of them
Short et al., 2009 Emergency department of a major Australian tertiary urban hospital, Australia Clinical staff in an emergency department (N = 67) Mixed methods evaluation: self completed questionnaire (38 items) followed by focus groups and individual interviews [4] Questionaire used the 10 items of the WReN Spider for measuring current skills and experience coupled with a repeated WReN Spider assessing participants’ level of interest in developing the 10 core skills No The survey including the WReN Spider showed that professionals had limited skills and experience with research. 5 out of 10 items were reported as with “no” to “little experience”. 90% of participants reported needing help to upskill in some of the WReN Spider items. Highest level of interest was that of upskilling ‘analysing and interpreting resutlts’, followed by ‘quantitative research methods’ and ‘critically reviewing the literature’.
Harding et al., 2010 School of Allied Health Professions, Australia Small group of allied health physicians, first cohort of a 12-week allied health research training (N = 7) and their mentors (N = 6) Mixed included in-depth semi-structured interviews and quantitative analysis in research interest, experience, and confidence [4] WReN Spider used for the quantitative part of the evaluation, measuring research interest, experience and confidence Yes, both at the onset and at the completion of the program Confidence in research skills and research experience increased after completion of the program for the first cohort. Conversely, interest in research decreased in 8 of the 10 items of the WReN (all but ‘generating research ideas’ and ‘finding relevant literature’)
Webster et al., 2011 Rural Area Health Services in New South Wales, Australia Sample of candidates from the 2006 and 2007 cohorts (N = 25) of the 2-year long Rural Research Capacity Building Program aimed at developing research skills in rural health workers Qualitative methods; interview schedule used the capacity building framework to focus the questions for interviewees [2] WReN Spider used in the first part of the evaluation, assessing changes in experience of candidates in each limb of the WReN Spider. Second part of the evaluation was qualitative aimed at gaining a better understanding of the impacts of the research program Yes, no specific details provided Participants valued the program and reported to have gained knowledge and research skills and to have developed research relationships. The WReN identified ‘significant’ improvement (no further detail reported) among candidates.
Leung et al., 2012 Within an academic institution and its affiliated hospitals in Toronto, Canada Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs, expected to identify and implement research-based innovations and to conduct research to enhance or benefit nursing practice) (N = 9), participating in the Oncology/ Supportive Care Research Mentorship Program Self-assessment with the WReN Spider and online evaluation [2] WReN Spider coupled with an online evaluation of each training session and an online survey on the program as a whole. Yes, prior to the program and at the end of the final education session Participants felt that their knowledge and experience in research had increased over the course of the program (mean increase in sccore: 0.91). Mentees who had lowest initial scores and who participated the most reported greates improvement. Participants also reported improved leadership skills and increased collaboration and consultation with clients on others in their healthcare teams
Harvey et al., 2013 Queensland Health, a public sector health organisation in northern Australia Social workers employees of Queensland Health (N = 103) providing public healthcare services Cross sectional survey of social [4] WReN Spider’s 10 items used in the design of the “experience and need for support in research activities” domain, as part of a wider survey. Research experience assessment included 4 extra items and rating scale from the original Spider was modified. No WReN Spider highlighted limited experience and skills in research activities and low confidence levels while participants reported high level of interest. More than 90% reported little/no experience in “applying for research funding” and “publishing research” while highest level of experience were reported for “finding relevant literature” and “critically reviewing literature”
Finch et al., 2013 Organisation providing public healthcare services for the state of Queensland, Australia Speech language pathologists (N = 137) providing public healthcare services Cross-sectional design study using a customised 30 questions web-based survey [4] WReN Spider used as part of a survey in a section for health professionals. Used for SPLs to self-rate their level of experience, confidence and interest in each of the 10 WReN research tasks. The final section of the survey asked respondents how many times they had completed each of the 10 research tasks from the ‘Research Spider’ over the last 5 years. No Respondents reported higher level of interest than of experience and confidence in research (median interest = 4 ‘moderate’ while median experience = 2 ‘little’and median confidence = 2 ‘little’). Participants more confident and experienced in basic research tasks (“finding relevant literature”) and less confident and experienced in complex tasks (“analysing and interpreting results” and “publishing results”). Only for “finding relevant literature” the level in interest, experience and confidence was the same (5 = ‘very’). For all items non-related to literature, participants reported 1 ‘none’ or 2 ‘little’ experience.
Pighills et al., 2013 Queensland Health Department, Australia Occupational Therapists (N = 86), health practitioners who worked for QHD, 49% hospital based and 51% working in the community or public health 30 min cross-sectional research capacity survey [4] Questions on research experience based on the categories in the Research Spider. In total the survey instrument had 14 categories, including 10 items from the original WReN Spider No The level of support required to become proficient in research activities was inversely related to the level of experience. Experience levels were low in all 14 ares of research. Only in ‘finding relevant literature’ participants reported moderate-to-high levels of experience, but 44% reported little/none experience in it. For the other 13 items, only a quarter or less reported moderate-to-high levels of experience and 93% reported little/no experience in ‘applying fo research funding’. Support needs were lower than experience level only in ‘finding relevant literature’ and in ‘critically reviewing literature’.
Mullan et al., 2014 Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Wollongong, Australia Three student cohorts of graduating medical students (N = 207) Self-assessment of research experiences using WReN Spider was administered to each student prior to, and the completion [1] Used alone Yes, before and after undertaking an individual community-based research project that commenced 2.5 years into the 4-year medical degree program Reported research experience was higher after program completion in 9 out of the 10 items of the WReN Spider (all but “applying for research funding”, and this was not a component of the curriculum). Significant gains in experience in “writing a research protocol” and “writing and presenting a research report” (rating changed from 1 ‘none’ to 3 ‘some’ and 1 ‘none’ to 4 ‘moderate’) were observed.
Nonoyama et al., 2015 Canadian Respiratory Health Professionals, Canada Canadian Respiratory Health Professionals (N = 119), 77% not in a research-related position while 22% were Online survey sent via email and monthly e-newsletter to staff developed by the investigators [4] Experience with and interest in up-skilling were assessed using a simple survey and visually presented using a WReN Spider graph, as part of a wider survey No Reported a greater interest in improving the majority of their research skills compared with their level of research experience. All respondents rated their experience as low: no/some experience in 9 out of 10 items of the WReN Spider (all but “finding relevant literature”, rated with “moderate” or “very experienced” by 49%). Interest in upskilling reported as “some” in all 10 areas. Respondents in research positions showed higher interest in developing research skills in all areas but in “finding relevant literature”, compared to respondents in non-research positions.
Pain et al., 2015 Queensland Health, Australia Queensland health staff classified as Health Practitioners (N = 723), 18% from rural areas Cross sectional survey [4] WReN Spider’s 10 items used in the design of the “research experience and support needs” domain, as part of a wider survey No Rural HPs reported less research experience than metropolitan HPs and need more research support, although the firsr have more qualitative reserch experience. Rural HPs reported low levels of experience in all categories but those related to literature and (finding, reviewing and writing a review). They also reported litte/no experience in “applying for funding” and “writing ethics application”.
Schmidt et al. 2016 Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) in Rural and Remote Primary Health Care Research, Australia Trainees from 2-year Research Capacity Building Program (RCBP) (N = 8), the trainee’s workplace managers (N = 4) and staff of the CRE (N = 8) Survey was conducted using a combination of emailed paper questionnaires and phone surveys [2] WReN Spider part of a wider survey on the processes and outcomes of the RCBP. Research experience was assessed using the WReN Spider Yes, baseline WReN Spider completed after an introductory research methods workshop and experience reassessed after program completion Measurable improvements in self-assessed research experience (average increase 0.6 in average scores). Initially, the group had limited self-rated research experience. All trainees would consider future research and managers thought the RCBP experience was “useful”.