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Closing the researcher-practitioner gap: An exploration of the impact of an AHRC networking grant

Hazel Hall (Centre for Social Informatics, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK)
Peter Cruickshank (Centre for Social Informatics, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK)
Bruce Ryan (Centre for Social Informatics, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 27 June 2019

Issue publication date: 12 September 2019

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the extent to which learning gained through participation in three research methods workshops funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council networking grant was applied in practice.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected by online survey and focus group from individuals who participated in the Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project workshops in 2011/2012. The survey data were coded and analysed manually, as were the transcribed focus group discussions.

Findings

Following the conclusion of the DREaM project the participants at the core of the network applied their learning from the workshops 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 opportunities for the researcher and practitioner cadre members, many of which arose from collaborations. This provides evidence of a second proven strategy (in addition to the provision of research reports in practitioner publications) for narrowing the library and information science (LIS) research-practice gap: the creation of researcher-practitioner networks.

Research limitations/implications

Collaborative interactions between academic researchers and practitioners bring benefits to both network participants themselves and to the wider communities with which they interact. These are likely to be applicable across a range of subject domains and geographies.

Practical implications

Network grants are valuable for furnishing learning that may be applied in practice, and for bridging the research-practice gap.

Social implications

In LIS 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.

Originality/value

This study provides an evaluation of network development that goes beyond simply reporting changes in network topology. It does so by assessing the value that network relationships provide to individuals and groups, extending knowledge on mechanisms of collaborative interaction within research networks. It is also the first detailed study of the impact of a UK research council networking grant.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Library and Information Science Research Coalition. The AHRC provided funding to Edinburgh Napier University for the Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project (AH/I001417/1), and the project benefited from the support of the member bodies of the Library and Information Science Research Coalition. The authors are also grateful to Edinburgh Napier University for providing further funding to support DREaM Again. This allowed for an investigation of the impact of the DREaM project three years after its implementation. This work would not have been possible without the generosity of the DREaM cadre members who gave up their time to take part in DREaM Again. In addition, the authors would like to thank Professor Alison Brettle and Dr Laura Muir for their feedback on an earlier draft of this paper.

Citation

Hall, H., Cruickshank, P. and Ryan, B. (2019), "Closing the researcher-practitioner gap: An exploration of the impact of an AHRC networking grant", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 5, pp. 1056-1081. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-12-2018-0212

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited