Creating a research culture
What is a ‘research culture?’
Having a culture of research in a Local Authority means that staff at different levels throughout the department have ownership of research, its messages and implications, and are committed to doing something about it.
The importance of a research culture
Children’s services interviewees identified a lack of a research culture as a key barrier to research having an impact on children’s services. If research does not become part of everyday practice and its potential is not recognised, it is unlikely that new developments, policy or practice will be informed by the experiences of others. Being mindful of research findings can enhance new developments and ensure they are driven by good practice.
How can a research culture be created?
- Involve top-level managers
Top level managers can be instrumental in establishing a research culture. They can model a research interest to others and can encourage staff to use research to inform practice.
- Have a key advocate for research
Having a key individual, within a department, who is interested in research and acts as advocate can contribute to a research culture. Key advocates are likely to ensure that implications are disseminated widely, and that potential changes are taken forward.
- Adopt research as a framework
It is important to adopt research as a framework for informing practice across the authority. Incorporate research into decision making and planning and encourage a commitment to reviewing and implementing research.
- Enable staff ownership
A research culture is facilitated by staff having ownership of the research, at all levels throughout the department. Being involved with research projects, or taking ownership of research in particular practice areas helps.
- ‘Sell’ the benefits of research
It is important to identify and try to address the disincentives to using research. At the same time, research units need to ‘sell’ the benefits of using research to staff in the authority. Producing annual reports that identify the impact of recent research in policy and practice may help (Percy-Smith et al., 2002)
- Use reward systems
Research suggests that reward systems, particularly for career development, can be important in establishing a culture of research (Nutley et al., 2003).For example, building in an expectation that all staff will engage with research helps to embed this in practice.
- Steer away from ‘tick-box’ exercises
Research will not become part of a culture if it is seen as a ‘tick-box’ exercise. It needs to be embedded within policy processes and used to effectively identify needs, issues and the allocation of resources (Percy-Smith et al., 2002)
- Through new initiatives or structures
Research has shown that it is easier to establish a research culture or evidence-based approach to practice in the context of a new initiative or structure (Percy-Smith et al., 2002)