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© 2020 The Author(s); Published by Kerman University of Medical Sciences. This commentary addresses Bowen et al’s empirical study of perspectives of Canadian healthcare staff towards research and their call for multi-faceted action to improve misalignments in the system. This commentary argues that tensions and misalignments between research and service are inherent and can never be eradicated. Building on previous work by Lanham et al, I propose seven principles of complexity which may help to develop system capacities that will help bridge the research-service gap: acknowledge unpredictability, recognise self-organisation, facilitate interdependencies, encourage sensemaking, attend to human relationships, develop adaptive capabilities in staff, and harness conflict productively.

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87 - 88