Session: International and National Perspectives on Developing Effective and Sustainable Academic/Agency Research Partnerships (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

6 International and National Perspectives on Developing Effective and Sustainable Academic/Agency Research Partnerships

Cluster: Social Work Practice

Allen Zweben, DSW, Columbia University , Robin E. Gearing, PhD, Columbia University , Mary Marden Velasquez, PhD, University of Texas at Austin , Miriam Schiff, PhD, Hebrew University, Jerusalem , Faye Mishna, PhD, University of Toronto and James G. Barber, PhD, RMIT University
Thursday, January 14, 2010: 1:30 PM-3:15 PM
Pacific Concourse N (Hyatt Regency)
Forging effective and productive partnerships between schools of social work and community agencies is an essential vehicle for bridging the gap between research and practice. Establishing a healthy, mutually beneficial academic-provider relationship necessary to conduct meaningful community based research requires navigating numerous challenges, conflicts, and differences. Suspicion and doubt, rather than opportunity and professional advancement, all too often inhibit the development of clinical research between providers and academics. Barriers to conducting community based research reflect differences of perception and position, concerning such matters as target population composition, standardized assessments/measures, client outcomes, timelines, and random assignment and control groups.

This roundtable will explore four key challenges to integrating EBP research and practice wisdom across national (USA) and international (Canada, Israel, Australia) academic and community-based practice settings. First, the proposed study population characteristics may be different for researchers than for agency providers. Researchers interested in obtaining maximal results for the study intervention may be geared to recruiting clients whose functional capacities may be greater than those served in agency settings. Second, using standardized instruments may not be viable in settings where staff are overwhelmed with high caseloads and do not have adequate resources to address the needs of clients. Third, agency perceptions of what constitutes evidence-based practice may differ from academic-researchers. Providers may consider subjective feelings of clients' progress or client satisfaction more important than their functional equivalents in assessing a particular approach. In contrast, academics may consider client evaluation of service as having little to do with confirming the utility of a particular intervention. Fourth, agencies may not consider randomized control trial (RCT) the “gold standard” in treatment outcome research, but rather as unethical or in conflict with standards of service. For agencies, RCTs may be indicative of denying clients needed services and therefore, are incompatible with the ways agencies operate in the “real world.”

Agency reluctance to build and maintain research partnerships with academic settings may reflect differences in treatment/service perceptions of what constitutes “best practice.” Agency providers may rely on conventional wisdom, their own clinical experiences and reflective thinking to guide and inform them about practice; whereas, academics contend that empirical findings should direct providers' thinking about practice.

Each roundtable participant will present for 10 minutes on the practice-research partnerships within their own national and institutional settings, followed by a discussion with attendees. Emphasis will be placed on obstacles and opportunities in the establishment and maintenance of these partnerships, including

- Identifying and assessing contextual factors that are linked with an “ideal culture” for forming successful research partnerships.

- Balancing practice concerns with research considerations.

- Identifying mutual research opportunities in practice settings.

- Negotiating priorities between providers and researchers.

- Building compatible goals/objectives between researchers and providers.

- Detecting and resolving barriers that interfere with the establishment and maintenance of research partnerships

- Discussing successful research collaborations.

Roundtable participation is expected to enhance attendees' understanding of how to develop and maintain effective academic-agency research partnerships. Lessons learned from the roundtable will be incorporated into a paper on the topic.

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