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June 19, 2009

Relationship between research, policy and practice

If you are doing research in areas such as careers, learning and development you are conscious that the research has to engage with practice, but a further dimension is raised if you seek to influence policy too. An article by Gold and Villeneuve (2003) throws light on the need to reconceptualise the relationship between research and practice if it to have an impact upon policy. Their argument revolved around the need to go beyond traditional forms of research dissemination:

  • Knowledge transfer is still widely thought of in terms of researchers producing research and then disseminating it (push).
  • Some researchers have begun to focus on helping decision makers access, appraise, adapt and apply research (pull).

In a review of 24 studies that asked over 2000 policy makers what facilitated or prevented their use of research evidence the number 1 factor was personal contact! (Innvaer et al. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy 2002; 7:241). This means that dissemination and uptake strategies are necessary but not sufficient in many cases. Relationships matter! Some researchers and decision makers are going beyond separate dissemination and uptake efforts and are engaging in true joint knowledge production. When this model is used, many still encounter difficult barriers to effective collaboration and exchange. The most commonly mentioned were:

  • A lack of understanding of each other’s culture and work environment
  • A lack of a common language
  • A lack of understanding of the relative roles and responsibilities in the process.

Gold and Villeneuve argue that relationships between researchers and decision makers are needed to overcome these barriers. Brokering is about building and nurturing relationships between those involved in joint knowledge production:

  • Finding the right people and linking them
  • Helping to set agendas and facilitating their interactions
  • Brokering is also about building relationships between communities
  • Understanding each others realities
  • Creating a common language and frame of reference
  • Helping to establish realistic expectations, roles and responsibilities.

Reference: Busting the silos: knowledge brokering in Canada Irving Gold and Julie Villeneuve Knowledge Transfer 5th International Conference on the Scientific Basis of Health Services Washington, 2003.

The Canadian Health Sciences Research Foundation have a part of their website devoted to the promotion of knowledge brokering and networking.


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