Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships

Sidebar to the article Partners in Research: Lessons Learned in Los Angeles by Bethany Backes and Melissa Rorie

NIJ is committed to helping researchers and practitioners collaborate to inform criminal justice research efforts. Since 2009, NIJ has provided funding for researcher-practitioner partnerships under an annual solicitation. To date, NIJ has funded 17 projects covering a range of criminal justice topics and involving parole and probation departments, victim advocacy agencies, police departments, specialized courts, and other practitioners.

Researchers and practitioners have unique skills and perspectives that can inform each other and make for a more informed research initiative. However, unique perspectives and pressures can make partnerships difficult. Previous studies have noted differences in how the partners view evaluation components, such as program implementation and assignment to groups, data collection efforts, outcome measurement issues, and how and to whom findings are communicated.[1] It is not generally a matter of being "right" — researchers and practitioners have different needs and, therefore, different practices. Although researchers may want to administer a standardized treatment protocol without exception, practitioners are often more focused on helping clients with individually tailored service plans. Researchers often focus on summary statistics and what the quantitative data tell them about differences between treatment and control groups, whereas practitioners often point to anecdotal evidence and success stories that support their efforts.[2]

Despite differing paradigms, bringing these two worlds together has many benefits. Researchers often give practitioners a broader view of procedures, point out patterns that may warrant improvement, and use data to develop solutions to common problems faced in practice. At the same time, researchers experience a "real world" view of the issues faced by their practitioner counterparts. Partnerships can show practitioners how systematic evaluation can lead to better practices and services. Overall, work completed through a researcher-practitioner partnership can make criminal justice and academic efforts more relevant and efficient.[3]

Back to: Partners in Research: Lessons Learned in Los Angeles.

Notes

[1] Lane, Jodi, Susan Turner, and Carmen Flores, "Researcher-practitioner collaboration in community corrections: Overcoming hurdles for successful partnerships," Criminal Justice Review 29 (1) (2004): 97-114.

[2] Block, Carolyn R., Barbara Engel, Sara M. Naureckas, and Kim A. Riordan, "The Chicago Women's Health Risk Study: Lessons in collaboration," Violence Against Women 5 (10) (1999): 1158-1177.

[3] Backes, Bethany, "NIJ seeks to strengthen the practitioner-researcher bond," Corrections Today 71 (4) (2009): 78-80.