Using research to improve social care

Wednesday 9 April 2003

Experts in research utilisation at the University of St Andrews will join other leading UK experts in a study into whether social care staff take on board research- generated knowledge for ‘best practise’.

Dr Sandra Nutley and Isabel Walter from the University’s Research Unit for Research Utilisation (RURU) are part of a group about to undertake a new research review being sponsored by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).

RURU is part of the ESRC UK Network for Evidence-based Policy and Practice. The network’s remit is to not only produce evidence of what works in public services but to ensure that attention is paid to such evidence in service development.

Amongst other things, the SCIE study will examine to what extent social care staff utilise knowledge derived from research into ‘what works’ in their day to day work.

Dr Nutley said: “This project will be important in drawing together knowledge about how research is used or not used by social care staff and how this can be improved. It will add to RURU’s knowledge base about how research can be used to improve public service delivery.”

Di McNeish, head of research and development at Barnardo’s, and Janie Percy-Smith, a freelance researcher will join the St Andrews experts in the project, entitled Research Utilisation and the Social Care Workforce.

Getting staff to use knowledge derived from research in their day- to-day work is key to the drive to modernise social care. Yet there is a lack of understanding in the field about whether and how staff use the fruits of research. The results of this review of existing research will lay the groundwork for assisting social care organisations to use research evidence in their work.

The review has five main objectives: to provide an overview of models of learning and human resource management (HRM) that support the use of research; to provide an overview of models of research utilisation that can include staff at all levels and in all settings in social care; to examine how research is used in social care; to examine evidence about the effectiveness of different ways of promoting the use of research in social care; to analyse future directions for research and development in research-based learning and practice change in social care.

A systematic review of research studies and current thinking will be supplemented by fieldwork seminars and interviews to help address gaps in the literature and capture emerging knowledge. The final report, due in November 2003, will draw up models of learning and of managing the workforce that should improve the use of research. It will also highlight the implications of the quality of current evidence for future research into and development of learning and practice change.

Wendy Hardyman, from SCIE’s research and reviews team, said: “This very important research will enable us to look at all levels of the social care workforce, including staff without social work qualifications, and at how research actually filters through into everyday work. The bulk of the research in this area to date has been in health and it’s not yet clear how – or if – this translates into social care settings. “The project should also identify some of the barriers to evidence- based practice. It should also help us to understand whether involving staff in setting the research agenda would increase the use of research findings by the workforce.”



Contacts: Dr Sandra Nutley (University of St Andrews): 01334 462797 or email [email protected]

Wendy.Hardyman (SCIE research and reviews team) or Professor Mike Fisher (SCIE director of research and reviews) on 020 7089 6840 Linda Steele (SCIE press and media executive) on 020 7089 6858




ESRC’s Evidence Network –

Category Research

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