E. Research & Knowledge Utilization

Panel Title Special Interest Group: Connecting Public Management Researchers and Practitioners for Improved Outcomes
Chairs Christine Flynn, Connexity Associates,
Professor John Diamond, Edge Hill University,
Dr Garth Britton, University of Queensland,
Professor Joyce Liddle, Joint University Council,
Panel Description At a time when public management is looking for innovative solutions in policy and practice to address the complex challenges which are constantly emerging, major disconnection between academic research and policy development and implementation in public management remains widely recognised.

The need for rapid and well-considered responses to urgent problems is all the more obvious in volatile times. Yet the challenge of bridging the gap between the analytical world of public management researchers and the policy and program world of public management practitioners remains significant. The researcher/practitioner relationship has often been characterised by disinterest, mistrust and mismatched expectations.

Many public management research disciplines and themes require the insights of practitioners and managers in the public sector, either by providing information (documents, interviews, surveys) or by direct involvement in research projects (joint sponsors, designers, funders).

Universities have been historically poor at establishing and maintaining close collaborative links with public sector policy makers and practitioners. Public sector entities are often unwilling to allow external actors, including researchers, inside the inner circles of policy development and review. We need to theorise and rethink the contribution and roles of university researchers and public management leaders for transforming organisations, programs and joined-up arrangements to achieve ‘public good’ outcomes.

Many senior researchers and practitioners have puzzled over what Nutley et al (2003) identified as a ‘recurrent research-practice gap in which evidence of what works is not translated into practice.’ The other side of the ledger is that practitioner experience is seldom publicised, recognised and translated within academic studies of policy and program issues.

Higher education institutions, including research centres and Business Schools, together with a range of public/private and other agencies, can also create better opportunities for collaboration and co-production in developing relevant and appropriate teaching programmes, research projects or colloquia, and consultancy activities. This SIG provides forums and focused dialogue concerning how we can draw these threads together, and create better aligned responses.

Purpose and rationale for the SIG

The SIG promotes engagement and mutual learning to bridge the divide between public management researchers and practitioners who are all attempting to understand and explain how to develop better methods for tackling difficult challenges in a rapidly changing context of fiscal constraint and political instability. It aims to continue and expand the dialogue which began in previous conferences, bringing together practitioners and academics around papers that describe successful collaboration across the research/practice divide, create a global dialogue and explore the factors that impede or facilitate fruitful knowledge-sharing and suggest ways these factors might be addressed.

The past two IRSPM conferences have seen this SIG panel grow in abstract submissions, attendance and quality of debate and dialogue and SIG membership.