Methods: The method for identifying and prioritizing research needs was inspired by the James Lind Alliance. A survey was conducted to inventory research needs. It consisted of open-ended questions and was sent out to all social services directors in Sweden´s 290 municipalities as well as 125 user organizations. The answers were compiled into 159 research questions and distributed in a second-round survey to the same recipients as before. The survey was also spread as an open link to reach a broader target group. The respondents selected ten research questions from the list. The research questions with the 32 highest number of votes was discussed at a workshop with social services directors and representatives from user organizations. The workshop resulted in a final top ten research priority list.
Results: Almost 600 individuals responded to the surveys. The top ten research priorities were:
- How can social services work with implementation of evidence-based knowledge?
- What methods can be used to evaluate interventions?
- How can user involvement be developed to improve the situation for users and social work?
- What are the effects and experiences regarding digitalization in the social services?
- What effects does welfare conducted by the non-profit sector have?
- What are the effects of early interventions?
- What are success factors and barriers for effective collaboration?
- For which problems do social services lack interventions?
- What are the effects of interventions?
- How reliable are standardized methods for assessing the needs of users?
The top ten list was not ranked however, the first four questions were regarded as particularly important since they were considered fundamental for social services.
Conclusions and Implications: The project is the most extensive inventory of research needs in social services conducted in Sweden and unique in the way that both professionals and users participated. The project covered all activities and parts of social services and thus led to broad questions which need to be specified into more researchable questions.
The results will constitute a basis for future calls for funding within Forte´s research program as well as topic selection for SBU´s forthcoming systematic reviews. We encourage researchers to address the prioritized questions in future research and to involve practice and users throughout the research process.