Importance of research-led practice

Professor Hazel Hall (Edinburgh Napier University) held a public lecture at the School of Business and Economics on research/practice linkages in the UK. The lecture discussed collaborations in library and information science and library sector, but her observations are broadly relevant to many other areas of research and practice as well.

Hall argued for the importance of research-led practice and the problems with the “evaluation bypass” that was originally observed in medical practice but later on also in other fields. According to Hall, to achieve good practical results, research should feed into the practice and practice should be based on research. Evaluation bypass refers to a phenomenon when practitioners (too) eagerly adopt new techniques and technologies without evaluating them and their impact properly. This leads to suboptimal performance and in some cases, may be harmful.

Hall also noted that in library field, there is little practitioner-led research. This observation could well be extended to the broader information and knowledge field. There is a large number of professional journals, but only a few practitioners participate in rigorous research. At the same time, very often shallow investigations, badly designed and conducted small surveys and opinion-pieces are passed and cited as ‘research’.

Some possible strategies to remedy the situation are to put explicit effort into fostering researcher/practitioner collaboration, help practitioners learn about doing research, informing professional press and key research connectors (people who are well-connected within the professional field such as trainers and popular speakers) and from practitioner point of view, to engage in horizon scanning.

Hall’s work has been published, for instance, in following outlets:

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