Amongst the latest articles published online ahead of print by the Journal of Documentation is one on narrowing the research-practice gap that I have recently co-authored with my Edinburgh Napier University colleagues Dr Bruce Ryan, Rachel Salzano, and Katherine Stephen.
Here we discuss the ways in which we applied our learning on network development between researchers and practitioners from the AHRC-funded Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project completed in 2011/2 to the development of a new network: Research, Impact, Value and Library and Information Science (RIVAL), funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh between 2019 and 2021.
Our analysis evaluates the impact of our approach, including the actions taken to (unexpectedly) deliver part of the programme of network events remotely due to the COVID19 pandemic lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.
This evaluation includes a series recommendations. These are applicable to any professional group that strives to strengthen links between research and practice, and researchers and practitioners. Each recommendation can be categorised under one of three headings:
- Network events: allocate time for social interaction, and ad hoc member presentations; offer sessions with broad appeal
- Network members: limit membership size; insist that membership requires participation at most events; invest in key members
- Network infrastructure: use social media; source resources for activities beyond the funded period
The detail of the empirical study presented in the paper is prefaced with an extensive literature review on the related topics of (1) the research–practice gap in Library and Information Science (LIS); (2) LIS practitioners as researchers; and (3) research collaborations between LIS practitioners and researchers. We explain that the extant body of knowledge in the domain is focused primarily on mechanisms that help ambitious academic librarians in North America with their research productivity. Less common are studies on the ways that LIS practitioners from different sectors/geographies are encouraged to engage with research. Even rarer is discussion of strategies to persuade LIS researchers to engage with practice.
For those who do not have subscription access to the Journal of Documentation, a full text pdf of the manuscript accepted for publication is available from the Edinburgh Napier repository.