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How can we specify who delivers behaviour change interventions? Intervention Source Ontology developed in new paper

By Emma Norris

Publication Date: 12/04/2021

Image credit: Emma Norris

How can we specify who delivers behaviour change interventions?

Intervention Source Ontology developed in new paper


Dr Emma Norris, Dr Alison Wright and colleagues in the behavioural science team of the Human Behaviour-Change Project have published a new paper in Wellcome Open Research (awaiting peer review).

Details of who delivers a given intervention are important to understand and specify. The experience and skills of a given source, pre-existing relationships between source and participants and source’s occupational role are key features requiring specification.

Guidelines aim to improve the quality of research reporting in terms of consistency, specificity and comprehensiveness. However, the most widely used of these, the CONsolidated Standards of Reporting Trials statement (CONSORT; Schulz et al., 2010) and its extension for social and psychology interventions (CONSORT-SPI; Montgomery et al., 2018) do not specify reporting who delivers interventions. The Template for Intervention Description and Replication checklist (TIDieR; Hoffman et al., 2014) includes one item (Item 5: “Who provided – For each category of intervention provider (e.g. psychologist, nursing assistant), describe their expertise, background and any specific training given”) but this is not further elaborated.

This paper reports the development and publication of the Intervention Source Ontology to allow further specification of who delivers behaviour change interventions.

Within the Human Behaviour-Change Project, we are developing a Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology to structure scientific specification of behaviour change interventions. Intervention Source is characterised as one of three core components of Intervention Delivery within the Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology, also including Mode of Delivery (i.e how interventions are delivered: Marques et al. 2020) and Schedule (i.e how often an intervention is delivered: ontology under development).


What did we do?

This new paper outlines development of the Intervention Source Ontology, using a seven step process being implemented throughout the Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology (methodology outlined in full in Wright et al. 2020). In brief, this method involves:

1) Defining the scope of the Intervention Source Ontology

2) Identifying key entities and developing their preliminary definitions by reviewing existing classification systems (top-down) and reviewing 100 behaviour change intervention reports (bottom-up)

3) Refining the ontology by piloting the preliminary ontology on 100 intervention reports

4) Stakeholder review by 34 behavioural science and public health experts

5) Inter-rater reliability testing of annotating intervention reports using the ontology

6) Specifying ontological relationships between entities (e.g is_a, is_about)

7) Disseminating the Intervention Source Ontology.

The published Intervention Source Ontology consists of 140 entities. Key areas of the ontology include Occupational Role of Source, Relatedness between Person Source and the Target Population, Sociodemographic attributes and Expertise. Inter-rater reliability was found to be 0.60 for those familiar with the ontology and 0.59 for those unfamiliar with it, levels of agreement considered ‘acceptable’.


What’s next?

The Intervention Source Ontology provides a classification system that can be used reliably to specify the characteristics of who delivers interventions. For human-delivered interventions, the ontology can be used to classify source characteristics in existing behaviour change reports and enable clearer specification of intervention sources in reporting. We will continue to update and refine the ontology according to new insights from research and recommendations from the community. Issues and recommendations can be made via our GitHub Issue Tracker. We are eager for researchers to use the Intervention Source Ontology to specify characteristics of who delivers new interventions, as well as in synthesis of existing interventions.

Read the full paper here

Contact Dr Emma Norris:  @EJ_Norris

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Human Behaviour-Change Project

Centre for Behaviour Change
University College London
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