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