There have been a couple of discussions on twitter and blog posts I’ve read recently that I’ve wanted to reply to, the most clear one came from @Ermintrude2 who wrote an excellent post about her struggles to keep up with research while working in frontline practice. Ermintrude, works as a social worker in an integrated mental health team, alongside NHS colleagues – she is an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP – pronounced ‘amp’ for anyone not in the know), a Best Interests Assessor (BIA) and a Practice Educator. She is also a prolific blogger and tweeter – she is likely the perfect opposite to apathy when it comes to social care practice.
In her post Ermintrude discusses the impact of work culture, of an employer’s attitude to research, and of professional attitudes to the importance of keeping up to date with research. She also talks about some of the sources she uses for information and keeping herself up-to-date, I was delighted to see RiPfA in her list, alongside other similar organisations who in one way or another are working to support people in social care practice to access and use research. I would recommend you read Ermintrude’s blog if you’re interested, the quote that made me chuckle into my coffee was this one:
One of the chief things I’ve learnt is that just because an article is presented in an academic journal, doesn’t mean it’s well-written or useful. We shouldn’t idolise academics as there is as great a variety in quality as there is in practitioners but there is no doubt that having an active interest in current academic research and debate is the next best thing to being able to be actively engaged in contributing to research.
I don’t think Ermintrude is alone. It appears to me that there is growing interest in the application and utilisation of social care research evidence and this interest is coming from several directions. There are those who work in social care practice, like Ermintrude and many of the people I saw on twitter engaging with that particular post, who care about their practice. Who want to be able to readily access research and use it’s findings. There is a considerable group of people who use social care services or who support someone who does, and I would argue an increasingly growing group of people who have yet to need to use social care, but who are aware that they may need to at some stage. Obviously there are social care providers, individuals or small organisations, alongside large national companies, who all want to do a good job providing social care and have an interest in efficiency and standards. Then there are those who work in social care training, development and education who to keep need themselves current with the growing evidence and knowledge to do a good job. Then of course there are academics and researchers who are producing research evidence, there has always been interest in what happens to the new knowledge that is created and there is a growing focus on research impact, I’m also hopeful that the focus on the Research Excellence Framework (REF) will go some way to turning attention to how research actually gets to those who need it.
So, all in all, there is potentially huge amounts of interest in getting social care evidence into practice and I’m really delighted to share with you the launch of a new project focusing on this very topic. The project, Creating an Impact: Social Care Evidence in Practice is a collaboration between the LSE team from the NIHR School for Social Care Research, RAND Europe and of course, research in practice for adults (RiPfA) and the LSE Higher Education Innovation Fund have kindly agreed to fund it.
The project aims to look at three areas:
- Exchanging evidence and practice around two key areas – the Care and Support White Paper and Long Term Care – these are deliberately broad topics so there should opportunities for most interested parties to get involved
- Exploring best practice methods for exchanging knowledge, and
- Making the case for research
If you’d like to know more you can read an outline of planned activities on the new project blog, which is in development and will be added to throughout the project. There isn’t currently the function to subscribe to the blog but hopefully there will be soon. If you would like to get involved with the project there are two immediate opportunities:
Firstly, there is still just about time to apply for the project coordinator role, this would be a great opportunity for anyone interested in the issues we’ve been discussing. Applications close on Wednesday 5 September so you’d need to be quick but please do consider applying and share the advert with anyone you know who might be interested.
Secondly, we’re looking for people who work in social care, you might be a social worker, an AMHP, a care worker, a provider, anyone who works as a social care practitioner, who would like to contribute to some media articles. We’re looking for people to comment, (anonymously if you prefer – we just need your generic job title and some idea of the region where you work) their thoughts about a) what does not work well currently and why relevant research is not feeding through to you, and b) your thoughts about what researchers need to do differently in future. This should take no more than five minutes of your time, if you would prepare to do this let me know and I’ll provide your details to the person compiling the contributions. Feel free to just add a comment to the bottom with your thoughts if you prefer – it would be good to see what people think.
There will be lots of opportunities to get involved with the project over the coming weeks, keep 19 October free for the first unconference if having read this you can feel the fire in your belly burning a little brighter. Hope to hear from some of you and see some of you there.