The issue of the research-practice gap – the problematic relationship between research in the academic setting and the practitioners – has been widely reported in many literature pieces at this moment. The research-practice gap is evident in its existence in many fields today. Matching textbook descriptions of research situations with the reality of practice is an ongoing problem faced by professionals and is commonly referred to as the research-practice gap. This article is intended to address the background and description of the gap between research and practice. In this article, I will discuss some of the causes of the gap.
Understanding A Research-Practice Gap
The research-practice gap is the chasm between what is known from research and what is actually practiced. We could see there’re still many discrepancies between the research and study finding and real-life practice. It still happens in many areas. For example, in the sphere of education, researchers and educators express frustration about the difference between what is known about school learning and what is practiced in schools. It is also happening in many social studies areas including in the business.
There have been many research and study across the industry and business setting organization, but the implementation is very low. It is said that the practitioner tends to consult the other practitioner rather than seeking a solution from the academic field. As stated by Thoresen (2018), practitioner, particular in business prefers to pay and see for the solution from a big consulting firm rather than find the solution from the scholar.
Although, the good news is that the research-practice gap is not something we could generalize to all disciplines. In fact, the size of the research-practice gap varies from discipline to discipline, with some academic domains experiencing strong knowledge uptake (e.g., healthcare and agriculture), while other disciplines are only beginning to promote knowledge sharing activities to close the research-practice gap.
The research-practice gap exists because researchers, decision-makers, and practitioners differ in training, goals, and priorities. These differences may lead to and also reflect a very different agenda.
First of all, let do the overview of the research-practice gap from two important parties involve: the scholar or researcher and the practitioner.
Scholar and Researcher Situation
What is a scholar or researcher? Merriam dictionary defines scholar as: “a person who attends school or studies under a teacher and a person who has done advanced study in a special field.” Some, like Rahman & Baizid (2016) defines a scholar as a “specialist in a given branch of knowledge” (p.218). It indicates that scholars or researchers will look at an issue and determine a way to attempt to solve that issue (p. 11). As also noted in the Center for Research Quality, “scholars attempt to look at how life could be, should be, and to get that closer to life as it is.” A scholar’s characteristics include “engagement in a theory-building activity, theory-building research skills and collaboration skills and attitudes and motivation for engagement in research with other stakeholders.” “Exposure to good practices in theory building that link theory and practice is another important characteristic” (Tkachenko et al., p. 253).
However, these are the idealistic definition of the scholar or researcher. We also have to look at the true nature of the scholar and researcher’s situation in their real situation. This is a more pragmatic view. I will look at my experience as an intern when I worked in university while finishing my bachelor degree.
First of all, it has been widely known that academic researchers have earned few, if any, incentives from universities to engage in non-research activities beyond publication in peer-reviewed academic journals and presentations at conferences. Requirements for tenure and promotion of study preferred, and even where there was a “scholar community service” aspect, information sharing with non-academic organizations was only one of how the service component could be accomplished.
As a result, researchers may not see information sharing as part of their work. Many may feel that they lack the skills to communicate their research to non-academics, especially to practitioners. Given the lack of opportunity to spend time and money on information sharing, it is perhaps not surprising that relatively few researchers value or engage in such activities.
In addition to spending time and money in the face of minimal returns in conventional academic settings, researchers are often limited by how research is financed. Since knowledge sharing is sometimes seen as something that happens after the research is completed, when resources (e.g., financial resources, staff) may be depleted, the knowledge sharing dimension is often overlooked.
There is, however, a growing optimistic situation that leads to the dissemination of research findings. It comes from a research funder who is more popular with a scholar and a researcher’s research funding. Research funders are currently starting to see and appreciate knowledge-sharing activities; over the last few years, there has been a move towards more funding opportunities that involve a major knowledge-sharing component. This situation has compelled the researcher to end the study by publishing the research in the journal and, more critically to share their findings and results.
How About The Practitioner Situation?
Practitioners or professionals are responsible for resolving many problems in the sense of their job standards. They have a goal and a deadline to be reached, such as the KPI (key performance indicator) to demonstrate their performance. They are often bombarded with an excess of knowledge on matters of interest to the organization, the work, or the people involved. Practitioners are also presented with the overwhelming task of sorting key knowledge through a mountain of information. We must note that research evidence is just one source of knowledge among many and can conflict with shareholder values and the current organizational environment.
Besides, often the introduction of study evidence with several caveats and the obvious lack of specific conclusions may make it difficult to integrate evidence into a real-life scenario. The use of research evidence by practitioners, especially those with urgent problems, is further restricted by the deadlines under which they operate. The essence of today’s corporate circumstances is that there is always a sense of urgency and action to respond to shareholders’ needs.
In addition to being in term-limited positions, practitioners (e.g., leaders, directors, managers, supervisors) may also find that they are working with shareholders and stakeholders who have very different perspectives regarding the value of research evidence.
The Needs of A Scholar-Practitioner!
So with all the issues already stated that both the scholar and the practitioner face, it would seem that the worlds of scholars and practitioners are destined to remain separate and distinct. Knowing that this is challenging, however does not discourage a serious attempt to close the gap. It’s more and more important to close the gap!
Knowing some of the reasons why the gap between research and practice is relevant to thinking on how to close the gap. That’s also why there is an increasing need for a scholar-practitioner in many schools and universities. What’s a scholar-practitioner? A scholar-practitioner would be a person with higher knowledge and higher education. Still, they should be placed at the feet of the practitioner. A scholar-practitioner grasped the theory and the concept, but they could think in real world terms and down to earth. So a scholar-practitioner will have to place himself as a ‘translator’ in the center of his study of the actual case scenario from the real-world situation of the researcher. On the other hand, they also bring the most out of the latest findings to help the practitioner address the problems they face.
I would strongly suggest that in order to close the gap in the future, scholars should learn to be more pragmatic. For the practitioner, there’s still a lot of studies available which might solve the problem. This is to eliminate the accusation when the practitioner indicates that the scholar is impractical, not down to earth. On the other hand, the scholar further said practitioners are always unaware of research and labelling the scholar without looking at research.
Let’s bridge the gap!