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Revisiting the “two communities” metaphor of research utilisation

Joshua Newman (Institute for Social Science Research, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




The “two communities” metaphor for the relationship between policy and academia is inconsistent with empirical evidence that shows that a sizeable minority of public servants use academic research in their policy-related work. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the two communities metaphor by comparing the personal and professional characteristics of Australian public servants who claim to use research in their policy work with the characteristics of those who claim not to use research.


Using data from a survey of 2,084 public servants from the state and federal levels in Australia carried out from 2011 to 2013, tests of statistical significance were conducted for the relationship between some personal and professional characteristics (e.g. gender, age, work experience) and the claim that research is used in policy-related work.


The “two communities” metaphor is not an accurate description of the relationship between policy and academia. In reality, public servants who claim to use academic research in their policy work are more likely to have much in common with academics, including having postgraduate degrees and work experience in the university sector.

Research limitations/implications

Rather than existing as isolated solitudes, the findings in this paper suggest that the policy and academic communities possess links that can encourage the use of research in policy making.


The findings presented in this paper are especially important for the evidence-based policy movement, which emphasises the value of the use of research evidence in the creation of public policy.



Corrigendum - It has come to the attention of Emerald Group Publishing that the article “Revisiting the ‘two communities’ metaphor of research utilisation” by Joshua Newman, published in the International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 27 No. 7, 2014, did not include the acknowledgement:

The data presented is drawn from an Australian Research Council funded project with nine industry partners (LP 100100380). These partners provided in-kind and cash support. They include the Productivity Commission; Australian Bureau of Statistics; Queensland Health; Queensland Communities; Queensland Department of Employment; Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet; Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development; Victorian Department of Education & Early Childhood and the Victorian Department of Human Services. The authors would also like to acknowledge the work of Brian Head, Adrian Cherney, Paul Boreham, and the research team at the University of Queensland that collected the data for this project.

This has been corrected in the online version. The author sincerely apologises for this oversight.


Newman, J. (2014), "Revisiting the “two communities” metaphor of research utilisation", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 27 No. 7, pp. 614-627.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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