“Shooting in the dark”: Implications of the research-practice gap for enhancing research use in adult social care

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Background:
Despite calls for greater use of research and an appetite to do so within adult social care, a gap persists between research and practice.
Aims and objectives:
To explore views of adult social care staff about research and its application to everyday practice. To understand how these might impact upon research use capacity-building initiatives within adult social care organisations.

Methods:
Thematic analysis of semi-structured qualitative interviews with 25 staff members working within the adult social care departments of three English local authorities.

Findings:
Participants characterised research as feeling separate from practice. They reflected on their use of it in relation to pressures affecting adult social care and identified a lack of relevant research. Research benefitting service users, supporting individual practice, or informing organisational decision-making was considered useful. However, research could also be viewed as a luxury where its findings were felt to represent an ‘ideal’ rather than real world of practice or did not accord with practice knowledge or local experience.

Discussion and conclusions:
While participants feel positively towards research, there remains a gap between these perceptions and its use in practice. There remains a need to improve research relevance and accessibility and to clarify its role in decision-making in social care, including where there is no evidence, where evidence challenges existing practice, or where the evidence base is growing. Collaborative partnerships between adult social care organisations, researchers and service users could help to narrow the research-practice gap and support the routine translation of research to practice.

Key messages:
1.For adult social care staff, there remains a gap between perceptions of the potential that might be offered by research evidence and its use to inform decision-making in practice.
2.There remains a need to improve research relevance and accessibility and to clarify its role in decision-making in adult social care.
3.Collaborative partnerships between staff within adult social care organisations, researchers and service users could help to address some of the knowledge translation challenges that continue to separate research and practice at the local level.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalEvidence and Policy
Early online date25 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Mar 2024

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for Research in Health and Social Care
  • SPS Children and Families Research Centre
  • HEHP@Bristol
  • NIHR ARC West

Keywords

  • adult social care
  • research use
  • local authorities
  • research-practice gap

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