What Really Makes an Impact? Understanding Research Use in Different Contexts

Date: Monday, June 6, 2011
Time: 4-6 pm
Location: Room 1218, 123 Edward Street, Child Health Evaluative Sciences, Research Institute, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto

Speaker: Sarah Morton, Co-Director at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR), University of Edinburgh

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What is it that helps research really have an impact on policy or practice? Sarah Morton will discuss evidence that research users need to rework research findings to suit their particular context in order to achieve changes in policy or practice.

The impacts of research undertaken by a long term research partnership between Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) and a voluntary organisation have been studied using a Case Study approach. Activities undertaken by the partnership have been followed up using mixed methods including interviews, a small survey and documentary analysis.

The research was found to be utilised widely in different policy and practice contexts. However, where real impact occurred research users have reworked the findings to suit the needs of the particular context in which they operate. There are three key examples of this, within the partnership organisation to improve a counselling service, in a practice context in work with parents on sex education, and by a campaigning organisation seeking to influence the development of alcohol policy.

Our understanding of “translation” of research findings to make them accessible to non-academic audiences needs to be developed in order to take account of the very different contexts in which research might have an impact. It is unrealistic for researchers to be able to understand or anticipate what all of the possible contexts for research use might be. Using a complexity lens we can better appreciate the need to work with the specific policy and practice contexts where research might have an impact. Ultimately we need to be working with non-academic partners to help facilitate this further translation if we want to move beyond the ideas of research being used, and consider research having a real impact on policy or practice.

About Sarah Morton

Sarah Morton is one of the Co-Directors at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR), a consortium research centre based at the University of Edinburgh with partners across Scotland. As well as conducting high-quality research, CRFR focuses on making research accessible to a range of audiences and developing dialogue across sectors about issues in families and relationships. The Centre has developed relationships with civil servants, practitioners, NGO’s and policy-makers over the last 10 years.

Sarah leads a small Knowledge exchange team at CRFR, acts as KE advisor to two large scale UK-wide projects, one with a qualitative focus, and sat on the Scottish Funding Council’s Public Policy Action Group. She is currently also undertaking PhD examining the processes through which research has an impact on policy or practice.

Contact Information

Sarah Morton
Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh, 23 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9LN
s.morton[at]ed.ac.uk
0131 651 1832