• Australian social work research: an empirical study of engagement and impact

      Tilbury, Clare; Bigby, Christine; Fisher, Mike; Hughes, Mark; Griffith University; La Trobe University; University of Bedfordshire; Southern Cross University (Oxford University Press, 2020-12-03)
      Internationally, non-academic research impact is assessed by governments as part of evaluating the quality of publicly funded research. A case study method was used to investigate the non-academic impact of Australian social work research. Interviews were conducted with 15 leading researchers about outputs (research products, such as publications and reports), engagement (interaction between researchers and end-users outside academia to transfer knowledge, methods, or resources), and impact (social or economic contributions of research). Twelve case studies were prepared using a standardised template. Content analysis highlighted examples of impact, and theoretical and in-vivo coding uncovered processes of engagement and impact. Different types of engagements with research end-users influenced impact in three areas: legislation and policy; practices and service delivery; and quality of life of community members. Engagement and impact were intertwined as research altered policy discourses and illuminated hidden social issues, preparing ground for subsequent, more direct impact. Likewise, academic and non-academic impacts were intertwined as research rigour and academic credibility were perceived to leverage influence. There was no evidence of achieving impact simply through the trickle-down effect of scholarly publication. The findings broaden understandings of how research influences policy and practice and iterative and indirect relationships between engagement and impact.
    • Research end-user perspectives about using social work research in policy and practice

      Tilbury, Clare; Hughes, Mark; Bigby, Christine; Fisher, Mike; Griffith University; Southern Cross University; La Trobe University; University of Bedfordshire (Oxford Journals, 2021-02-14)
      Research funding and assessment initiatives that foster engagement between researchers and research end-users have been adopted by governments in many countries. They aim to orient research towards achieving measurable impacts that improve economic and social well-being beyond academia. This has long been regarded as important in social work research, as it has in many fields of applied research. This study examined research engagement and impact from the perspective of research end-users working in human services. In-person or telephone interviews were conducted with 43 research end-users about how they used research and interacted with researchers. Content analysis was undertaken to identify engagement strategies and thematic coding was employed to examine underpinning ideas about research translation into practice. Participants were involved in many types of formal and informal research engagements. They viewed research translation as a mutual responsibility but indicated that researchers should do more to improve the utility of their research for industry. The findings highlight the iterative nature of engagement and impact and raise questions about the infrastructure for scaling up impact beyond relationships between individual researchers and their industry partners.
    • Using grey literature in the human services: perspectives of Australian research end users

      Hughes, Mark; Tilbury, Clare; Bigby, Christine; Fisher, Mike; Southern Cross University; Griffith University; La Trobe University; University of Bedfordshire (Australian and New Zealand Social Work and Welfare Education and Research, 2021-03-24)
      Human services workers need up-to-date, quality research to inform their work in practice, management, education, policy, and advocacy. While some research end users read peer-reviewed journal articles, many also rely on research-based grey literature in the form of print and online materials, which may not be subject to scholarly peer review. This may include commissioned research reports, conference papers, policy documents, and research summaries. The aim of this study was to understand how research end users accessed research knowledge and the benefits and challenges related to different knowledge sources, including grey literature. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 43 research end users in child protection, disability, and aged care services. Participants indicated that they used an array of grey literature for reasons such as difficulties accessing academic journals, wanting to read more digestible research, and to source lived experience or culturally appropriate knowledge. Grey literature provides a valuable source of research knowledge, but uncertainty about its quality means research end users should be mindful of its limitations. Producers of grey literature should ensure that it distils messages for policy, practice, and the delivery of human services based on sound research.