A new article entitled ‘Closing the researcher-practitioner gap: an exploration of the impact of an AHRC networking grant‘ is now available from Emerald as an EarlyCite paper in the Journal of Documentation. Those with subscription access can download the full pdf from the journal’s web site. The manuscript is also available to download free of charge from the Edinburgh Napier University Repository. I co-authored this work with my Centre for Social Informatics colleagues Peter Cruickshank and Bruce Ryan.
In the article we present the results of a study that investigated the extent to which participation in three research methods workshops funded in 2011/12 by an AHRC networking grant – Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) – enhanced the learning of a group of library and information science researchers and practitioners, and how this learning has been applied in practice. This is the first detailed study of the impact of a UK research council networking grant.
We report that following the conclusion of the DREaM project, the participants at the core of the network applied their learning to innovate in the workplace and to develop information services, with evident impact on end users of library and information services. The strongest impact of the DREaM project, however, was found in reports of widened career opportunities for the participants, many of which arose from collaborations. This provides evidence of a second proven strategy for narrowing the LIS research-practice gap: the creation of researcher-practitioner networks. (The other proven strategy is the use of evidence summaries, as identified by Kloda et al in their 2014 paper ‘Assessing the impact of evidence summaries in library and information practice‘. This earlier paper is available in full text from Library and Information Research.)
In our newly-published paper we provide an evaluation of network development that goes beyond simply reporting changes in network topology. Rather, we assess the value that network relationships provide to individuals and groups, thus extending knowledge on mechanisms of collaborative interaction within research networks. (Our 2018 paper ‘Long-term community development within a researcher network: a social network analysis of the DREaM project cadre‘, also published in the Journal of Documentation, explores the enduring network ties amongst the workshop participants.)
We conclude that network grants are valuable for furnishing learning that may be applied in practice, and for bridging the research-practice gap. In library and information science and other domains that suffer from a research-practice gap (e.g. teaching, social work, nursing, policing, management), the bringing together of researchers and practitioners in networks may address problems associated with misunderstandings between the two communities, and lead to improved services provision.