Building a better bridge: The role of research mediators

Community member post by Jessica Shaw

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Jessica Shaw (biography) (Photograph by Chris Soldt)

What, and who, are research mediators? And are they the key to linking research with policy and practice?

There has long existed a gap, perhaps a chasm, between the worlds of research and of policy and practice. All too often, policymakers and practitioners do not use research evidence when making key decisions, while researchers design entire programs of research without a complete understanding of the needs of those on the ground doing the work. Because of this divide, we’re left wondering—how do we get individuals to use the most relevant research findings when making personal healthcare decisions? how do we get school officials to choose evidence-based curriculum? how do we get legislators to develop scientifically-sound policies? Continue reading

Do we need to discipline interdisciplinarity?

Community member post by Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

Imagine a team of researchers tackling global health inequalities, with a focus on sanitation. The team comprises epidemiologists and biostatisticians interested both in measuring the extent of the problem and designing intervention trials, engineers investigating a range of sanitation options, anthropologists examining the cultural aspects of sanitation, economists and political scientists documenting the economic benefits and looking for policy levers to assist in making change happen.
 
The team is working at national policy levels and with a range of target communities seeking to engender small business interest in promoting new sanitation options, as well as individual and community behaviour change. There is collaboration with major international donors and non-government organisations. The team has a talented and charismatic leader.

What the team does not have is access to the full array of theory and methods for synthesising the input of the different disciplines, along with all the relevant stakeholder knowledge. Nor does it have the ability to bring to bear all the different ways of teasing out and taking into account the knowledge gaps – the unknowns. Finally the team cannot tap into the wealth of information about how to provide effective integrated research support for policy and practice change.
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